AFTER dragging its feet for five years, the Central Government has finally constituted the “Lokpal” under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.
The President of India, upon the recommendation of the Selection Committee comprising the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Sumitra Mahajan, nominee of the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice S A Bobde, and eminent jurist Mukul Rohtagi, has appointed a former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose as the first chairperson of the Lokpal.
The President has also appointed a total of eight members in the Lokpal. Of them, four are judicial members, and the remaining are non-judicial members in the following order:
- Justice Dilip B. Bhosale
- Justice Pradip Kumar Mohanty
- Justice Abhilasha Kumari
- Justice Ajay Kumar Tripathi
- Dinesh Kumar Jain
- Archana Ramasundaram
- Mahender Singh
- Indrajeet Prasad Gautam
Justices Dilip B. Bhosale, Pradip Kumar Mohanty, Justice Abhilasha Kumari are former Chief Justices of the Allahabad High Court, Jharkhand High Court and Manipur High Court respectively. Justice Ajay Kumar Tripathi is the present Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court. Justice Bhonsale is the son of a former chief minister of Maharashtra, Babasaheb Bhonsale, while Justice Abhilasha Kumari is the daughter of former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh.
Retd. IAS officer D K Jain is former Chief Secretary of Maharashtra. Retired IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram is former Sashastra Seema Bal Chief.
The Lokpal Act provides that out of a maximum eight members, half will be from the judiciary. A minimum 50 per cent of the members will be from SC/ST/OBC/Minorities and women. The judicial member of the Lokpal should be either a former or sitting judge of the Supreme Court or a former of sitting Chief Justice of a high court. The non-judicial member should be an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge and expertise of a minimum 25 years in matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance, including insurance and banking, law and management.
Background to the appointment of the Lokpal
The Central government had, after the intervention of the Supreme Court, formed a Search Committee on September 27, 2018 with Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai as its Chairperson, and Justice Sakha Ram Singh Yadav, Ranjit Kumar, Arundhati Bhattacharya, Dr. Lalit K. Panwar, Shabbirhusein S. Khandwawala, A. Surya Prakash and Dr. A.S. Kiran Kumar as its members, to recommend a panel of names for the appointment of the chairperson and members of the Lokpal.
On February 6, 2019, the Search Committee had invited applications/nominations for the preparation of a panel of names for appointment as chairperson and members of the Lokpal to be considered by the Selection Committee
On March 7, 2019, the Attorney General for India, K K Venugopal had informed the Apex Court that a Search Committee headed by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai (retd) had already sent three panels of names separately for the chairperson of Lokpal, judicial members and non judicial members of the Lokpal. It was now for the Selection Committee to convene a meeting and select the chairperson of the Lokpal and its members, the AG informed the court.
The Court had then asked the Centre to inform it within 10 days the date when the Prime Minister-led Selection Committee would convene its meeting to appoint the chairperson of the Lokpal and its members.
The leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, had declined to attend the meeting of the Selection Committee as a special invitee. The Lokpal Act provides for the Leader of Opposition (LoP) to be a member of the Selection Committee. Since there is at present no recognised LoP in the Lok Sabha, the government had asked Kharge to participate as a special invitee without any right to take part in the deliberations of the Selection Committee.
Powers of the Lokpal
The Inquiry Wing of the Lokpal has been vested with the powers of a civil court. The other powers of the Lokpal include:
- The power to authorise the CBI for search and seizure.
- The power to recommend the transfer or suspension of public servants involved in allegations of corruption
- The power to confiscate assets, proceeds, receipts and benefits arising out of or procured by means of corruption in special circumstances
- The power to give directions to prevent the destruction of records during a preliminary inquiry
- The power of superintendence over, and to give direction to CBI
- If it has referred a case to CBI, the investigating officer in such case cannot be transferred without the approval of the Lokpal.