India's First Lokpal Appointed: Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose as Chief, 8 Members

New Delhi: Former Supreme Court judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose was on Tuesday appointed as the country’s first Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman, an official communique said.

Former Chief Justices Dilip B. Bhosale, Pradip Kumar Mohanty, Abhilasha Kumari besides sitting Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh high court Ajay Kumar Tripathi have been appointed as judicial members in the anti-corruption ombudsman, the communique issued by Rashtrapati Bhavan said.

The former first 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 have been appointed as non-judicial members of the body, it said.

“The above appointments will take effect from the dates they assume charge of their respective offices,” the communique said.

The appointments were recommended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led selection committee and approved by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Justice Ghose, 66, retired as Supreme Court judge in May 2017. He is a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) since June 29, 2017.

The much-awaited appointments, announced ahead of the general polls scheduled to begin from April 11, are likely to trigger a political controversy as Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, a member of the Lokpal selection panel, had boycotted its latest meet on Friday.

The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, which envisages appointment of a Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in states to look into cases of corruption against certain categories of public servants, was passed in 2013.

Giving details of the Lokpal members, a senior government official said Justice Bhosale retired as the chief justice of Allahabad high court.

Justice Mohanty retired as the chief justice of Jharkhand high court on June 9, 2017.

Justice Abhilasha Kumari served as the first female chief justice of the Manipur high court. She is at present chairperson of Gujarat state human rights commission.

Briefing about the details of non-judicial members, the officer said Dinesh Kumar Jain, a 1983 batch IAS officer, retired as Maharashtra’s chief secretary in January this year.

Archana Ramasundaram is a 1980 batch (retired) IPS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre. Mahender Singh is a 1981 batch (retired) officer of Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise), the officer told PTI.

Indrajeet Prasad Gautam is a 1986 batch retired IAS officer of Gujarat cadre.

The Lokpal appointment comes a fortnight after the Supreme Court asked Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to convene a meeting of the Lokpal selection panel.

A search committee headed by former apex court Judge Ranjana Prakash Desai had recommended three panels of names to the selection committee for appointment of chairperson, judicial and non-judicial members in the anti-graft body.

Following the court’s proceedings, a meeting of selection panel was held on March 15.

The court had on January 17 set up a February-end deadline for the Lokpal search committee to send a panel of names who could be considered for the appointment as its chairman and members.

According to the rules, there is provision for a chairperson and a maximum of eight members in the Lokpal panel. Of these, four need to be judicial members.

The Lokpal selection committee is headed by the prime minister and has as its members the Lok Sabha Speaker, leader of the opposition in the Lower House, Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist who could be nominated by the president or any other member.

Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge had been invited in the past meetings of the selection panel as a “special invitee”. However, he had been refusing to attend the meetings since February last year arguing that there was no provision for a special invitee to attend such a meet.

In a recent letter to Modi, he alleged that the government has not made any attempt to amend the relevant provisions of the Lokpal Act to include the leader of the single largest party in the opposition as a member of the selection committee.

There is no leader of opposition (LoP) in the current Lok Sabha.

A party should have at least 55 seats or 10% of the strength of the Lok Sabha for its leader to get the LoP status.

The Congress is the single largest opposition party in the Lower House, but its leader could not be given the LoP status as it does not have the requisite number.

 

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