We wrote an FAQ on the Lok Pal Bill for Rediff. See http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-all-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-lokpal-bill/20110808.htm The full text is reproduced below. What is the purpose of the Lok Pal Bill? The Bill seeks to establish an institution that will inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries. It establishes the office of the Lok Pal for this purpose. What is the composition of the Lok Pal? The Lok Pal shall consist of a Chairperson and up to eight members. The Chairperson, and at least half of the members have to be current or former judges of the Supreme Court or Chief Justices of High Courts. The other members will have at least 25 years experience in matters related to anti-corruption policy, vigilance, public administration, finance, law and management. Who selects the Lok Pal? The Selection Committee consists of the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of Opposition in each House of Parliament, a Union Cabinet Minister, a sitting Supreme Court Judge, a sitting High Court Chief Justice, an eminent jurist, a person of eminence in public life. The two judges on this Committee will be nominated by the Chief Justice of India. Who comes under the jurisdiction of the Lok Pal? There are seven categories of persons under the Lok Pal: (a) Prime Minister after demitting office; (b) current and former Ministers; (c) current and former MPs (d) all Group A officers of the central government; (e) all Group A equivalent officers or PSUs and other government bodies; (f) directors and officers of NGOs which receive government financing; (g) directors and officers of NGOs which receive funds from the public, and have annual income above a level to be notified by the government. The speech and vote of MPs in Parliament are exempt from the purview of the Lok Pal. What are the major powers of the Lok Pal? The Lok Pal has two major wings: investigation wing and prosecution wing. The Lok Pal can ask the investigation wing to conduct preliminary investigation of any offence alleged to be committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It can then conduct an inquiry. If the inquiry concludes that an offence was committed, the Lok Pal can recommend disciplinary action. It can also file a case in the Special Court. Does the Lok Pal need any prior sanction to initiate any action? No. The Bill states that the Lok Pal does not need prior sanction to inquire into an offence, or to initiate prosecution in the special court. What are special courts under this Bill? The central government is required to constitute special courts to hear and decide cases under this Bill. The Lok Pal shall recommend the number of such courts. What are the various time limits for conducting inquiry and trial? All preliminary investigation or inquiry must be completed within 30 days of the complaints (and can be extended for a further three months, with written reasons). The inquiry is to be completed within six months (extendable by six months). The trial is to be completed within one year of filing the case. This time may be extended by three months (and in further periods of three months each time) with written reasons, but the total time should not exceed two years. How can the Lok Pal be removed from office? The President may make a reference to the Supreme Court, (a) either on his own, or (b) if 100 MPs sign a petition, or (c) if a citizen makes a petition and the President is satisfied that it should be referred. If the Supreme Court, after an inquiry, finds the charge of misbehaviour was valid against the Chairperson or a Member and recommends removal, he shall be removed by the President. What are the provisions for the expenses of the Lok Pal? The Bill provides that all expenses will be charged, i.e., the amount will be provided without requiring a vote in Parliament. The Bill estimates recurring expenditure of Rs 100 crore per annum, and a non-recurring expenditure of Rs 50 crore. It also estimates a further Rs 400 crore for a building. What are the major differences from the Jan Lok Pal Bill drafted by Team-Anna? There are several differences. The composition of the Lok Pal and the selection process are different; the Jan Lok Pal draft included a search committee with civil society members to shortlist the eligible members of the Lok Pal. The Lok Pal had jurisdiction over the PM, the judiciary and all public servants (only Group A officers in the government Bill); it included the speech and vote of MPs in Parliament; it did not include NGOs. The Jan Lok Pal Bill provided that the investigation and prosecution wings of the CBI shall report to the Lok Pal for corruption cases. It also had penalties ranging from six months to life imprisonment (under the government Bill, the maximum imprisonment is derived from the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and is 7 years).
Discussion on the first no-confidence motion of the 17th Lok Sabha began today. No-confidence motions and confidence motions are trust votes, used to test or demonstrate the support of Lok Sabha for the government in power. Article 75(3) of the Constitution states that the government is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha. This means that the government must always enjoy the support of a majority of the members of Lok Sabha. Trust votes are used to examine this support. The government resigns if a majority of members support a no-confidence motion, or reject a confidence motion.
So far, 28 no-confidence motions (including the one being discussed today) and 11 confidence motions have been discussed. Over the years, the number of such motions has reduced. The mid-1960s and mid-1970s saw more no-confidence motions, whereas the 1990s saw more confidence motions.
Figure 1: Trust votes in Parliament
Note: *Term shorter than 5 years; **6-year term.
Source: Statistical Handbook 2021, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; PRS.
The no-confidence motion being discussed today was moved on July 26, 2023. A motion of no-confidence is moved with the support of at least 50 members. The Speaker has the discretion to allot time for discussion of the motion. The Rules of Procedure state that the motion must be discussed within 10 days of being introduced. This year, the no-confidence motion was discussed 13 calendar days after introduction. Since the introduction of the no-confidence motion on July 26, 12 Bills have been introduced and 18 Bills have been passed by Lok Sabha. In the past, on four occasions, the discussion on no-confidence motions began seven days after their introduction. On these occasions, Bills and other important issues were debated before the discussion on the no-confidence motion began.
Figure 2: Members rise in support of the motion of no-confidence in Lok Sabha