NEW DELHI: Seven years after Lokpal and the Lokayuktas Act was signed into law and almost a year since the appointment of the first Lokpal, the institution of Lokpal is running without a permanent office, staff and most importantly the absence of necessary rules and regulations required by the body to decide cases.
Born out of the 2011 massive anti-corruption movement, which eventually changed the course of politics in the country by throwing out the Congress from power, the office of Lokpal is yet to settle down. It has been almost a week since the office of Lokpal shifted to another temporary office inside the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution in Vasant Kunj from its earlier temporary office in the government-owned Ashok Hotel, but officials are yet to get internet connections or telephone that are operational in the new office.
On the condition of anonymity, an official at the Lokpal office said: “Our contact numbers are not even working. There used to be an office of income tax department in this building; we are asking them to provide the numbers. But they are also not cooperating with us. We have been requesting service providers to fix these issues, but they have not been solved yet. It’s like shifting to a new house. Everything will fall in line very soon.” Asked how without internet and telephones, how they are receiving complaints, the official said, “It is a transition period; it’s not possible to say how many complaints have been received so far. If complaints are sent via post office, it will take time to reach here since this is a new address. If there are online complaints, it is in the mail. But we could not open them as there is no internet,” the official added.
The performance of the Lokpal office in terms of resolving complaints looks very impressive as the only statistics available in the website of the Lokpal states that out of 1,065 complaints it received till 30 September, 2019, 1,000 such complaints have been heard and disposed of. However, as per officials, most of the complaints did not fall within the mandate of the Lokpal. “Most of these complaints are public grievances such as delay in pension etc. As per the Act, a complaint has to be filed in a prescribed format. So, we cannot accept most of these complaints. But since people sent their complaints to the Lokpal office and there is a Lokpal here, we heard their complaints and dispose them of as it didn’t fall within the mandate of Lokpal. Thus, despite constraints, we are doing our best to address the grievances of people,” the official above said.
According to sub-Section 2 (a) of Section 59 of Lokpal Act, the power to make rules on matters such as “form of complaint” is vested on the Central government. As per the Act, “complaint” means a complaint “made in such format may be prescribed, alleging that a public servant has committed an offence punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988”.
However, sources told The Sunday Guardian that the draft rules prepared by nodal department, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), are still pending in the Ministry of Law.
Shortage of staff in the Lokpal office is also due to power vested in Central government to make rules on matters which include appointment of officers and other staff of the Lokpal under sub-Section 2(c) of Section 59. In August 27, 2019, DoPT has made a draft rule for Group “C” posts.
According to that draft, there are 112 posts for group “C” multi-tasking staff. But officials informed The Sunday Guardian that there is no permanent staff in the Lokpal office. “There is no permanent staff here; all staff you see here are contractual. Appointment of staff are done by Department of Personal Training (DoPT); nothing is in our hands,” an official said on the condition of anonymity.