Public servants — including officials and ministers — found guilty of corruption will not only stand to have their properties confiscated but could also be ordered to make good the loss to the exchequer, according to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill 2011 slated to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
The bill cleared by the Union cabinet at its meeting late on Tuesday has also proposed to empower the Lokpal with powers to attach properties of public servants, believed to be proceeds of corruption.
Every time a court convicts a public servant for corruption, the court will have the power to assess the loss to exchequer and order recovery of such loss from the public servant. In case more than one person is involved, this money will be recovered from the beneficiaries who stand convicted proportionately.
But the final version of the government's bill could set up roadblocks for the lokpal to inquire into corruption cases already pending before any court, parliamentary panel or any other authority.
In a last-minute change to its draft law, the cabinet decided to remove the clause that explicitly empowered the lokpal to go ahead with its inquiry irrespective of other authorities dealing with it too.
A senior minister suggested the explanation — part of the bill introduced in Lok Sabha in August — was removed since a person could not be tried twice for the same offence.
By implication, he added, if the court had already taken up a particular corruption case, no purpose will be served by getting the lokpal also to inquire into the same case.
A government source said there was another suggestion to bar the lokpal from taking up any corruption case alleged to have taken place prior to its establishment. But it was quickly turned down.
Lokpal can only take up complaints of offences that take place in preceding seven years.
Officials, however, insist that the stringent provisions in the draft law for attachment and confiscation of ill-gotten properties against the corrupt gave the law its real teeth.
The lokpal will be empowered to attach properties for 90 days if it has reason to believe that a corrupt official was likely to conceal or transfer the assets.
"It cuts the red tape involved in getting the court to order confiscation of the property till the completion of trial," a senior government official said.