Finally India Now Has Lokpal In Place As Anti-Graft Body
It has been a long and gruelling wait for Lokpal to finally come in place as an anti-graft body. On March 19, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh who is a former Supreme Court Judge and former Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court who retired in May 2017 and a current member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was appointed as India’s first Lokpal after President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath of office to Justice Pinaki as the country’s first Lokpal. Earlier we saw how President Kovind had nominated former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi as “eminent jurist” as member of the panel to select Lokpal against the vacancy arising following the death of senior advocate PP Rao. The Lokpal Selection Committee was headed by the Prime Minister and had as its members – Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House, Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist nominated by President. A Judge of the top court nominated by the Chief Justice of India or any other member can also be selected to be a part of Lokpal Selection Committee.
To put things in perspective, all eight newly-appointed members of anti-corruption ombudsman Lokpal on March 27 took the oath of office. They were administered the oath by Lokpal chairperson Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose. Former Chief Justices of different High Courts – Justices Dilip Babasaheb Bhosale of Allahabad High Court, Pradip Kumar Mohanty of Jharkhand High Court, Abhilasha Kumari of Manipur High Court and Ajay Kumar Tripathi of Chhattisgarh High Court took oath as judicial members in the Lokpal. Also, first former woman chief of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) Archana Ramasundaram, ex-Maharashtra Chief Secretary Dinesh Kumar Jain, former IRS officer Mahender Singh and Gujarat cadre ex-IAS officer Indrajeet Prasad Gautam were sworn in as the Lokpal’s non-judicial members.
Simply put, it was in January 2011 that the government formed a Group of Ministers to suggest measures to tackle corruption. Also, the Group of Ministers were entrusted with the onerous task of examination of the proposal of a Lokpal Bill due to relentless agitation by Anna Hazare. In July 2011, the Union Cabinet approved the Lokpal Bill and both Houses of the country passed it in December 2013.
What’s more, the Lokpal Act, which stipulates appointment of a Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in the States to look into cases of corruption against certain categories of public servants was passed in 2013. It is worth noting that according to the rules, not less than 50 percent of the members of the Lokpal panel shall be from amongst the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities and women. Also, upon selection, the chairperson and members shall hold office for a term of five years or till they attain 70 years of age.
Now let us turn to the procedure for preliminary inquiry. The Inquiry Wing or any other agency will have to ensure completing its preliminary inquiry and submitting a report to the Lokpal within 60 days. Before submitting its report, it has to seek comments from both the public servant and the competent authority. Also, there will be a competent authority for each category of public servant. As for instance, for the Prime Minister, it is the Lok Sabha and for other Ministers, it will be the Prime Minister and for department officials, it will be the Minister concerned.
All said and done, finally now India has in place a Lokpal as the anti-graft body to check and combat corruption which is certainly a great milestone and was due since a long time! But it would be premature to rush to any conclusions soon. We have to see now effectively it functions and what all roadblocks its faces in its functioning! One truly hopes that the Lokpal will be able to meet the high expectations of the people and function effectively for which it has been constituted! Some shortcomings must be revisited like Lokpal must have power to deal with not just public servants who come within the purview of the Union as we see right now but also broadened to include in its ambit the public servants in the states also! It must be ensured by Lokpal that all Lokayuktas are appointed in all States and there is no vacancy in any State on any ground whatsoever!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.