The concept of a constitutional ombudsman was first proposed by the Law Minister Ashoke Kumar Sen in parliament in the early 1960s. The first Jan Lokpal Bill was proposed by Mr Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but could not get through the Rajya Sabha, because of obvious reasons.. Subsequently, lokpal bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985( again by Ashoke Kumar Sen when serving as Law Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, yet they were never passed. 42 years after its first introduction, the Lokpal Bill is still pending in India.
The Lokpal Bill provides for filing complaints of corruption against the prime minister, other ministers, and MPs with the ombudsman. The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) while recommending the constitution of Lokpal was convinced that such an institution was justified not only for removing the sense of injustice from the minds of deeply affected citizens but also necessary to instill public confidence in the efficiency of the administrative machinery. Following this, the Lokpal Bill was for the first time presented during the fourth Lok Sabha in 1968, and was passed there in 1969.
However while it was pending in the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha was dissolved, and so the bill was not passed at that time. The bill was revived several times in the subsequent years, most recently in 2008. Each time, after the bill was introduced to the house, it was referred to some committee for improvements --- a joint committee of parliament, or a departmental standing committee of the Home Ministry and before the government could take a final stand on the issue, the house was dissolved again. Several conspicuous flaws have been cited in the recent draft of the Lokpal Bill. The basic idea of the lokpal is borrowed from the office of ombudsman, which has Administrative Reforms Committee of a lokpal at the Centre, and lokayukta(s) in the states.
Anna Hazare fought for this bill to get passed and it did on Dec 27,2011 around 9:30 with modifications (proposed as the Jan Lokpal Bill). However, Hazare, his team and other political parties claim that the Lokpal Bill passed is weak and would not serve its intended purpose. So the proposed bill by the ruling Congress Party is yet to get acceptance from the Rajya Sabha. As of Dec 29, 2011, the bill has been deferred to the next parliamentary session amid lots of drama and disruption by the LJP, RJD and SP parties. The media at large and the opposition parties have claimed the situation to be staged.
The Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen's Ombudsman Bill) is a draft anti-corruption bill drawn up by prominent civil society activists seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year and envisages trial in the case getting over in the next one year.
Drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and former Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist), the draft Bill envisages a system where a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within two years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated. It also seeks power to the Jan Lokpal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without government permission.
Retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and other known people like Anna Hazare, Swami Agnivesh, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Mallika Sarabhai are also part of the movement, called India Against Corruption. Its website describes the movement as "an expression of collective anger of people of India against corruption." It goes on to state: "We have all come together to force/request/persuade/pressurize the Government to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill. We feel that if this Bill were enacted it would create an effective deterrence against corruption."
Anna Hazare, an anti-corruption crusader, began a fast-unto-death, demanding that this bill, drafted by the civil society, be adopted. The website of the India Against Corruption movement calls the Lokpal Bill of the government an "eyewash" and has on it a critique of that government bill. It also lists the difference between the bills drafted by the government and civil society.
Features of the Jan Lokpal Bill:
An institution called Lokpal at the centre and Lokayukta in each state will be set up
Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations.
Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.
The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month's time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years.
But won't the government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won't be possible because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.
What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.
To judge the cases and make jurisdictions against corruption cases with the Lokpal.
To judge whether a case is legal or whether a fake complaint has been made.
Anna Hazare, a Gandhian rights activist, had started a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi demanding the passing of the bill. Hazare called off his hunger strike on the 9th of April 2011 bringing to an end his 98-hour protest after the government issued a gazette notification constituting a 10-member Joint Committee of government ministers and civil society activists, including him, to draft a bill for the creation of an effective Lokpal. Thousands of people from all over India, especially the youth, supported Anna Hazare's cause by candle light marches and online campaigns through social media.
Recently yoga guru, Swami Ramdev, was on a fast for this cause for 9 days from 4 to 12 June 2011. He wanted the Government of India to accept various demands which mainly included those related to the Lokpal Bill.Many claim he had his personal interests behind it.
Anna Hazare on the 8th of June, 2011, declared that he will restart his fast unto death on the 16th of August if the Lokpal bill is not passed by the Parliament of India by 15 August, which is the Independence Day of India. On the 16th of June, the civil society reported that only 15 points of total 71 that they recommended have been agreed to by the Joint Committee consisting of five central ministers. Following differences with the Civil Society, the team of five central ministers decided to forward two drafts of the Lokpal Bill to the Cabinet, one from each side. Anticipating some sort of police action against his fast intended on August 16, social activist Anna Hazare said he would move the Supreme Court to prevent any situation similar to the police crackdown on Baba Ramdev and his supporters at Ramlila Maidan.
“The government said, ‘we will suppress the agitation of Anna Hazare as had been done in the case of Ramdev’. Is this democracy or autocracy? You cannot suppress.... That is why we will go to the Supreme Court tomorrow,” Hazare told reporters here-“The Constitution has given right to every citizen to lodge a protest. We will launch the agitation from August 16,” he added.
On 27 December 2011, the Lokpal bill was passed by the Lok Sabha after a day long debate and amendments. The Indian Army, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy have been kept out of the ambit of the Lokpal. The bill also keeps CBI independent.