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Lokpal panel minutes need not be disclosed

Topics Covered: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Lokpal panel minutes need not be disclosed:


Context:

The Centre has refused to disclose the minutes of the Lokpal selection committee’s meetings, and its decision has now been upheld by the Central Information Commission (CIC).

  • The Centre has invoked the exemption clause in Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act in its defence.

Selection Committee:

The members are appointed by the president on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.

The selection committee is composed of

  • the Prime Minister who is the Chairperson;
  • Speaker of Lok Sabha,
  • Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha,
  • Chief Justice of India or a Judge nominated by him/her and
  • One eminent jurist

The 2016 amendment enables the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha to be a member of the selection committee in the absence of a recognized Leader of Opposition.

Highlights of the Lokpal Act of 2013:

  1. The Act allows setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level.
  2. The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members.
  3. The Lokpal will cover all categories of public servants, including the Prime Minister. But the armed forces do not come under the ambit of Lokpal.
  4. The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.
  5. The States will have to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act.
  6. The Act also ensures that public servants who act as whistleblowers are protected.

Powers:

  1. The Lokpal will have the power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
  2. As per the Act, the Lokpal can summon or question any public servant if there exists a prima facie case against the person, even before an investigation agency (such as vigilance or CBI) has begun the probe. Any officer of the CBI investigating a case referred to it by the Lokpal, shall not be transferred without the approval of the Lokpal.
  3. An investigation must be completed within six months. However, the Lokpal or Lokayukta may allow extensions of six months at a time provided the reasons for the need of such extensions are given in writing.
  4. Special courts will be instituted to conduct trials on cases referred by Lokpal.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About Lokpal.
  2. Powers.
  3. Functions.
  4. Selection.
  5. Overview of the Lokpal Act of 2013.

Mains Link:

Comment on the changes made to Lokpal Act and its delay in operationalisation.

Sources: the Hindu.