India is set to get its first Lokpal after a Selection Committee for Lokpal consisting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi and Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi came to a decision during a meeting on Friday, news agency IANS reported.
Lokpal, an anti-corruption ombudsman that was the demand of many activists was decided after nearly 10 days ago, the Supreme Court directed the Attorney General to finalise the names for Lokpal.
“At this stage, the order which we consider appropriate to pass is to request the learned Attorney General to inform the Court within 10 days from today about the possible date of convening a meeting of the Selection Committee for finalisation of the names for constitution of the Lokpal,” a bench comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna and Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had said.
Former Supreme Court Judge Pinaki Chandra Ghose was chosen as India’s first Lokpal after the meeting. Ghose retired from the Supreme Court in May 2017 and is a serving member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
This move by the government was criticised by the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Congress Leader Mallikarjun Kharge. Kharge was part of the meeting but refused to attend it as a “special invitee” as this doesn’t grant him any rights of participation in the selection process.
Kharge also wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi that that government had not even tried to change the Lokpal Act for including the Opposition Leader. He reiterated that he had already denied being a special invitee at least six times previously. He also said, “nothing stops the government from appointing a Lokpal” even without the presence of the Leader of Opposition.
This also presents a grave situation whereby the government can appoint anyone close to it and who will ignore the government’s corruption if it does occur. It makes it so that the appointee is not necessarily a neutral party. We will have to see whether our doubts turn out to be true as the first Lokpal of India begins its work.