The Delhi Lokpal will be able to take suo motu cognisance of cases and will have unfettered powers to probe cases of corruption

The former Delhi Lokayukta, Justice Manmohan Sarin, had on several occasions gone after public functionaries for their alleged acts of omission and commission. However, the result of all such cases was at best an indictment.

But the Aam Aadmi Party proposed Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, expected to be passed in a special session of the Delhi Assembly on February 16, proposes to add teeth to the existing anti-graft ombudsman with powers to investigate and prosecute government functionaries including the Chief Minister and legislators with life imprisonment as maximum punishment for corruption. The Delhi Lokpal would be able to take suo motu cognisance of cases and will have unfettered powers to probe cases of corruption.

Earlier, the Lokayukta could only proceed in allegations made against public functionaries (MLAs and Councillors) after getting the nod from the President or the Lieutenant-Governor. In the new regime, sources said, the Delhi Lokpal would be able to go after corrupt officials on his own.

According to the draft Bill, anybody found guilty or dismissed from service will not be entitled to any government benefits including retirement benefits such as pensions and all assets of the official will be confiscated.

The new Bill drafted by the Aam Aadmi Party Government is a huge leap over the earlier Delhi Lokayukta Act which was a toothless tiger with powers only to indict public functionaries. While the draft Jan Lokpal Bill seeks life imprisonment as maximum punishment and six months in jail as minimum punishment, the Lokayukta could only make recommendations to the competent authority on which action is to be taken.

Further the CM’s office, Delhi Development Authority, New Delhi Municipal Council and Delhi Police have also been kept under the ambit of the Bill, said officials. However, this provision may be opposed by the Centre as all three agencies – DDA, NDMC and Police -- report directly to the Home Ministry.

As per the proposed draft Bill, sources in the government said, the proposed Lokpal panel would have one Lokpal and 10 other members, who will be selected by a seven-member committee. The selection committee would have only two politicians -- Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition, apart from two sitting High Court Judges, one previous Lokayukta and two eminent personalities who will be selected by other members.

With powers and prosecution being given to the Lokpal, the anti-corruption bureau will be merged with the office of Delhi Lokpal. While any individual would be able to file a complaint against any public functionary, the Delhi Lokpal Bill has provisions for protection of the whistleblowers, apart from having framework to safeguard the witnesses.

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