GOBBLE D. Gook really does not know if he should be pleased that the lame-duck government has finally appointed the eight Lokpals, including the Chief, on a Panel of Lokpals while the Code of Conduct for the forthcoming Lok Sabha Elections is very much in force.
The ‘Lokpal & Lokayuktas Act’ had come into force on 1 January 2014 as a culmination of a huge public movement in favour of transparency and against all forms of corruption.
The Chowkidar Sarkar which assumed power in 2014, however, sat tight over implementing its provisions at the Central level for the past five years, though many State Governments did obey the mandate of law and appoint Lokayuktas.
Now, just 3 weeks before the General Elections, the first Lokpal panel has been constituted by the Central Government.
The entire selection procedure was non-transparent, contrary to Section 4(4) of the Act and there are several procedural flaws too which were ignored rather than ironed out. For example, taking advantage of the fact that there was no one technically qualified to be the Leader of the Opposition (as no Opposition party has 55 ie 10% seats) the balance three members on the selection panel viz. the Prime Minister, the Speaker and Chief Justice of India (who nominated Justice S A Bobde) unanimously selected the government’s own ex-Attorney General, Mukul Rohatgi as the fourth member of the Selection Panel under the meant-to-be unbiased, impartial “eminent jurist” category.
The fifth seat, reserved for Leader of the Opposition, was kept vacant because the government condescended to invite the leader of the largest opposition party only as a “Special Invitee” without any voting rights. He promptly, and expectedly declined. But a record of principles of natural justice having been followed was created!
Together, these four selectors have unanimously zeroed in on former Supreme Court Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose as ‘Captain’ of the Lokpal panel. Three former Chief Justices (of Allahabad, Manipur and Jharkhand high courts) and one sitting Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh comprise the other four judicial members of the team.
And three retired bureaucrats from the IAS, IPS and IRS have been selected as the non-judicial members.
If one just does a cursory internet search on the background and antecedents of all these appointees, one gets a fair indication as to why this government has selected them. All are “tried and tested”. And their appointment is proof of their having passed whatever this “test” was!
The big thing going for the judges is their pedigree and for the bureaucrats their loyalty.
All of them are well-versed with the machinations of politics and politicians.
Gook feels that this ought not to be considered a minus point under the circumstances.
Now that they are in a secure seat for a five years fixed tenure, they can really flex their muscles if they want to.
But the proof of the pudding is in eating it and we will have to wait and watch how these handpicked candidates fare in performance.
Will they become watchdogs or lapdogs?
Warriors for ‘We, the people’ or hatchet men for those wielding power?
Windmills of change, or old weather-cocks swaying to the will of the wind?
To commemorate the constitution of India’s very first Lokpal panel, Gook has penned this Law-merick: