Lokpal gets its first cradle ahead of a birth by suction — Anna’s C Sec at bay now

Lokpal gets its first cradle ahead of a birth by suction

Tejinder Singh Bedi

Thursday evening’s Lokpal selection committee chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally decided to go ahead and constitute a search panel to choose the Lokpal, or the anti-corruption ombudsman, after the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge is reported to have boycotted the meeting.

Kharge’s grouse for non-participation emanates from his already declared stance that he was being invited as a special member of the committee; without any right of participation and not as a leader of the largest party in the opposition.

In actual effect, it may not have made any difference to the outcome of the meeting considering the fact that the committee chaired by the PM already had its members in a majority to decide upon the choice of the eminent jurist whatever way it wanted to irrespective of any dissent from the special invitee. And this in no way is different from what has been happening in the selection committees during the rule of the UPA especially in the manner of selections of the CIC and other similar positions.

Thanks to the repeated calls from the Supreme Court; as most of its early crusaders from the Gandhian Anna Hazare to any other active members of the spirited drive to fight corruption from the grassroots of the country including most of our spiritual Babas — since turned successful business czars, most prominently sharing the fight with Anna on the stage having secured cozy positions of power and authority under NDA’s umbrella and even the heard of sheep donning caps of ‘Main Anna Hun’ having lost their faith in its realization, the move by the government at long last again accords some pace towards the appointment of India’s first Lokpal.

A Bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi with Justice Bhanumati as the other member had asked the government to expedite the process for Lokpal’s appointment after Attorney General KK Venugopal informed it that the selection panel headed by the Prime Minister will hold a meeting on July 19. This meeting going on schedule adds to the respect of the current government as much as the smooth passage of the Fugitive Economic Offenders bill through the parliament early the same day.

It may be recalled here that the Enacted in 2013, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act had been enacted in 2013 and had received presidential assent on January 1, 2014, for coming into force from January 16, 2014.

As such, it has already been over four years that the process of appointment of the Lokpal and its institutionalization has been in limbo for so long though the same government took an immediate initiative in constituting a SIT to fight black money soon after it came to power. It is interesting to mention here that the SIT headed by Justice (retired) M B Shah in the meantime has recommended the cap for holding cash to be revised manifold from existing Rs 20 lakhs to one crore with the option of any seizures above Rs one crores being reclaimed on payment of 40 % income tax and penalty as due.

The selection panel should now announce the search committee so constituted that too should start the process of recommendations for a panel of names for appointing the Lokpal without any further delays. Though the SC bench has sought a report from the government by Monday, the matter has been posted for further hearing on July 24. Questioning the process adopted by the Centre, petitioner Common Cause at the same time has been insisting that the court uses its extraordinary power under Article 142 to appoint the Lokpal. With the process taking off in all earnestness, one hopes the judicial route to the appointment will not have to be invoked. Whatever way it goes, it seems sure that by 2019 the country will definitely have this institution in place with all the teeth it will need to nail black money hoarders and high rise corruption in all walks of life around.

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(*Author Tejinder Singh Bedi is a former technocrat, a people management, CSR Adviser, free-lance writer and a passionate singer)