Almost after 11 months of forming the anti-corruption ombudsman, the government has issued a format for filing complaints of alleged corruption against public servants, including sitting or former prime minister, with the Lokpal. The notification was issued on Tuesday, March 2 by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions regarding the Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020.
A complaint filed against the prime minister shall be decided by the full bench, comprising its chairperson and all members, in the first instance, at the admission stage, the order said. The rules also state that if such a complaint is dismissed by the full bench at the admission stage, records of the inquiry shall not be published or made available to anyone.
A complaint can be filed with the Lokpal against the prime minister, a minister of the Union, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha members and bureaucrats, among others.
All complainants have to mandatorily give an affidavit on non-judicial stamp paper, that among other things mentions, "making any false and frivolous or vexatious complaint is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees," the order said.
The complaint may ordinarily be made in English in the manner as laid down by Lokpal; electronically, by post or in person. However, when the complaint is filed electronically, a hard copy thereof shall be required to be submitted to Lokpal within a period of 15 days from the date of filing, it said.
"Provided further that the Lokpal shall not keep the said complaint, received electronically, as pending if the same is complete in all respects," it said. A complaint shall contain the details of allegations about the commission of an offence by the public servant, which include the prime minister, the order said.
All complaints must have an affidavit in a specified form, the personnel ministry said. It added that the Lokpal shall dispose of a complaint within 30 days. The anti-corruption ombudsman may have to protect the identity of the complainant or the public servant complained against until the conclusion of the inquiry or investigation.
"Provided that the protection, shall not be applicable, in cases where the complainant himself has revealed his identity to any other office or authority while making a complaint to the Lokpal," the order said. The Lokpal, while processing the complaint, may protect the integrity of the process of inquiry or investigation, it said.
Lokpal is the apex body to deal with cases of corruption at the national level. It has to inquire into allegations of corruption against public functionaries of the central government in a time-bound manner.
President Ram Nath Kovind on March 23, 2019, administered the oath to Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose as the chairperson of Lokpal. The Lokpal's eight members were administered the oath by Justice Ghose on March 27. One of the members of the panel, Justice Dilip Bhosale recently resigned from the post.
Former chief justices of different high courts — justices Pradip Kumar Mohanty, Abhilasha Kumari and Ajay Kumar Tripathi — are the three judicial members of the Lokpal. Former first woman chief of Sashastra Seema Bal Archana Ramasundaram, ex-Maharashtra chief secretary Dinesh Kumar Jain, former IRS officer Mahender Singh and Gujarat cadre ex-IAS officer Indrajeet Prasad Gautam are the Lokpal's non-judicial members.
According to rules, there is a provision for a chairperson and a maximum of eight members in the Lokpal panel. Of these, four need to be judicial members. A total of 1,065 complaints were received until September 30, 2019.
Out of which, the Lokpal has disposed of 1,000 complaints, according to the latest available data. In the absence of a format for filing the complaint, Lokpal decided to scrutinise all the complaints received by it, in whatever form they were sent.
(With agencies input)