Corruption in India is one of the most important barrier and issue among many responsible for low rate of economic development, slow eradication of poverty, poor implementation of public policies and poor governance etc. As per transparency international, Indiaranks at 94th position worldwide on corruption perception index. Indian public has been aspiring since long to get rid of corruption especially in Indian bureaucracy through some effective and potent piece of legislations. Though a number of Acts such as Indian Panel Code 1860, The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, The Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 1988, The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 etc were already there. But, it could not fulfil the aspirations of public in addressing the corruption at the gross root level. A lot of social activism has taken place demanding a strong and effective legislation against corruption in last one decade or so. In that process some initial success was met in the form of enactment of Right to Information Act, 2005 which is very essential and helpful in accessing the information for establishing the corruption charges. However, much more needs to be done in this direction by enacting a series of legislations such as Whistle Blower’s Protection Bill, 2011, Public Procurement Bill, 2012, The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011, Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill etc to eradicate corruption from its root. In this direction, government under pressure of people led by social activist Anna Hazare introduced a bill in Indian Parliament to fight against corruption in the form of Lok Pal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011 which has been passed by the both the houses of Parliament on 17th and 18th December, 2013. After assent of President the bill has become an The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 and come into force after its notification on 01.01.2014.
In the recent time, Lokpal and Lokaykta Bill, 2011 was most talked about and debated bill inside and outside Parliament. Though there were a lot of divergent views among government, social activists and experts on contents of draft bill and its effectiveness in addressing the corruption leading to many criticism, protest and demonstration by social activists, but by incorporating certain amendments in the bill government could get it passed in both houses of Parliament taking main opposition party and members of many other political parties on board.
The bill has a lot of teeth in addressing corruption through provision such as 50 percent representation of SC, ST, OBC, minorities and women in selection of Chairman and Members of Lokpal and their selection is made by a committee consisting of Prime Minister (PM), Speaker in Lok Shabha, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India and eminent jurist. It has jurisdiction over all levels of public servants including Prime Minister and no prior sanction required for launching prosecution in cases probed by Lokpal or investigated at its instance except PM. It will have its own inquiry wing for preliminary inquiry and provision for creation of independent inquiry wing and prosecution wing by creating Directorate of Inquiry and Directorate of Prosecution are there. The bill provides for enhancing the maximum punishment for corruption from 7 to 10 years and minimum term for two years; and mandatory establishment of Lokayukta at the state within a year.
Though LokPal and Lokayuka Bill, 2001 is likely to become an Act soon, however, many people are very sceptical about its usefulness especially for poor people. Though the biggest victim of corruption are poor people, but they have been denied the most, the use of this instrument through the penal provision of this bill against petitioner. This says that whoever makes any false and frivolous or vexatious complaint under this Act shall, on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with fine which may extend to one lakh (one hundred thousand) rupees.
As far as false allegations are concerned, an objective judgement can be made and it can be very well established that allegations are true or false and nothing is in between; and one should be penalized for the false allegation as it unnecessarily increases the administrative burden of institution investigating and adjudicating the corruption cases. However, as far as frivolous and vexatious allegations are concerned it requires a subjective judgement to decide the same and to what extent it is frivolous and vexatious. Most of the poor people who are not much educated also and requires to be armed with this legislation will be deterred to use this legislation as even financial penalty to petitioner is so high to the tune of Rs 1,00,000/- against daily income of Rupees 120 per day, in case if it is proved false, frivolous and vexatious.
Therefore, this legislation will arm only arm rich people, big corporate houses, strong NGOs against corruption. Poor people will not have the desired benefit of this legislation. What government should have done to make this Act more effective for benefits of poor, it should have reduced the amount of penalty and should have withhold the right of petitioner to make appeal further for a period of time, in case of false, frivolous and vexatious allegations to deter them to do the same.