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Complaint not in right format? No problem, Lokpal will scrutinise it to spot genuine grievances

In 2021-22, of the 4,244 complaints received (till Feb 2022) by Lokpal, only 128 were in prescribed format. But since Jan 2022, 669 wrong-format complaints have been dealt with or disposed of.

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New Delhi: Anti-corruption watchdog Lokpal has decided to scrutinise each and every complaint it receives, even if it’s not filed in the correct prescribed format. Why? So that no genuine grievance is overlooked, senior Lokpal officials told ThePrint.

If there is merit in the complaint, the Lokpal will contact the complainant and ask them to submit the complaint in the right format, and/or provide all relevant information.

So far, the Lokpal used to reject complaints if they were not in accordance with the prescribed format.

“This will ensure that no genuine complaint gets rejected because it was not filed in the right format or because certain information was lacking,” a senior Lokpal official told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.

A total of 669 non-format complaints have been dealt with or disposed of by the full division bench of the Lokpal since January this year.

According to the official, the decision to scrutinise each complaint was taken because even two years after the government notified the rules and prescribed the format for filing complaints with the Lokpal, the majority of the complaints were not sent in the proper format.

The Lokpal, comprising four judicial and four non-judicial members working under a chairperson, was instituted at the central level to inquire into allegations of corruption against national-level public functionaries, including present and former prime ministers, Union ministers, former MPs, and central government officials.

Also read: 3 years since launch, Lokpal is a non-starter. Complaints dry up, questions rise over intent

‘Need to create awareness’

On 3 March 2020, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) notified rules that required an individual filing a complaint of corruption against a public servant to furnish identity proof, along with a sworn affidavit. This was done to ensure that all relevant information is available with the Lokpal to proceed with the complaint.

In 2021-22, of the 4,244 complaints received (till February 2022) by the Lokpal, only 128 were in the prescribed format. In 2020-21, of the 2,355 complaints received, 110 were in the prescribed format, while in 2019-20, just 45 of the 1,427 complaints received were in the correct format.

“This means that people are still not aware that to enable the Lokpal to look into their complaints, certain information needs to be provided. There is need for massive outreach to create awareness about the rules,” a senior Lokpal official explained.

The official said the Lokpal bench is now going through each individual complaint and taking decisions on merit. “This is the true spirit of Lokpal as ‘Lok’ means people and ‘Pal’ means protector. The institution is the people’s protector,” the official added.

As of 31 January 2022, the Lokpal had 36 live (active) complaints under scrutiny. Among these, investigation has been ordered in three cases.

Process to appoint Director of Inquiry begins

Senior Lokpal officials told ThePrint that the process to fill the crucial position of Director of Inquiry in the institution has been started.

The Director of Inquiry is tasked with overseeing preliminary inquiries into corruption complaints. The position has remained vacant since the Lokpal was instituted on 19 March 2019.

Officials said that manpower shortage for several key posts in the Lokpal Secretariat, which has a sanctioned staff strength of 124, is also being addressed.

On 28 December 2021, Bharat Lal, a 1988-batch Indian Forest Service officer, was appointed as secretary to the Lokpal. Since January, one joint secretary and two deputy secretaries have also been appointed.

“The process to fill up other vacant posts has started,” said the official quoted at the top of this report.

Two of the four judicial posts in the Lokpal have been vacant since 2020, including the one formerly occupied by Justice Dilip B. Bhosale who resigned in January 2020, just nine months after taking oath. Another judicial member, Ajay Kumar Tripathi, former chief justice of Chhattisgarh High Court, succumbed to Covid-19 in May 2020.

Currently, the Lokpal is chaired by Pinaki Chandra Ghose, a retired Supreme Court judge and former chief justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The two serving judicial members are Pradip Kumar Mohanty, former chief justice of the Jharkhand High Court, and Abhilasha Kumari, former chief justice of the Manipur High Court.

The official said a robust Lokpal is among the priorities of the government. “The Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) has time and again talked against the malaise of corruption in public platforms,” the official added.

In his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat on 30 January, PM Modi had talked about a corruption-free India. “Corruption hollows the country like a termite. Why wait for 2047 to get rid of it? All of us countrymen, today’s youth, have to do this work together, as soon as possible, and for this it is very important that we give priority to our duties,” the PM said.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

This report has been updated to correct the number of non-format complaints handled by the Lokpal till February. The error is regretted.

Also read: How Lokayuktas lost their teeth: Seats empty in some states, powers diluted in others

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