Friday 28 October 2016

Lokpal Among Top Priorities of Govt: PMO

New Delhi

Setting up of the anti-corruption body Lokpal is among the key measures that are the top priorities of the government, the Prime Minister's Office has said.

In its communication to the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the PMO has identified setting up of Lokpal, passing of Citizen's Grievances Bill and amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act as immediate thrust areas of the government, official sources said.

The government is in the process of appointing chairperson and members of the Lokpal, they said.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is also changing rules for a search committee, mandated to recommend names for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, the sources said.

The erstwhile UPA government could not set up Lokpal due to BJP's objection in its selection procedure.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who was then Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, had raised strong objections to the "highly improper" procedure adopted by the UPA government to make appointments of Lokpal's head and members.

As per the existing rules, an eight-member search panel is tasked to draw up a panel of persons for consideration by the selection committee led by the Prime Minister for appointment of Lokpal's chief and members.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act provides for the establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries.

President Pranab Mukherjee had given his assent to Lokpal Act on January 1 this year.

The government's other priorities include changing the anti-corruption law, the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, which seeks to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, is pending in Rajya Sabha.

A Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, and Law and Justice had submitted its report on the Bill and recommended a number of amendments in it.

No final decision has been taken on these recommendations, the sources said.

The amendments in the PC Act seeks to modify definitions and penalties for corruption related offenses. It also seeks to attach and forfeit property of corrupt public servants.

The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011, (Citizens' Grievances Bill) had lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha (last government).

The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha in December 2011.

The Bill has provisions for all public authorities to appoint officers to redress grievances in a time-bound manner. It also provides for appointment of Central and State Public Grievance Redressal Commission.

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