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Five years after the Lokpal Act was notified to probe cases of corruption  against public servants, former Supreme Court judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose was on Tuesday appointed as the country’s first  ever Lokpal or anti-corruption ombudsman.

A selection committee, comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India , Lok Sabha Speaker and an eminent jurist, finalised Justice Ghose’s name in a meeting last week. Earliert, the Supreme Court had set a deadline to the government, saying that its stand on not being able to complete the appointment of a Lokpal had been unsatisfactory. The court has been constantly urging the government for the past several months to complete the Lokpal appointment. T he court was responding to a contempt petition against the government for not appointing a Lokpal despite an April 2017 judgment by the court.The government had maintained that Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 had not been implemented all these years because of the absence of the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the current Lok Sabha.

The 2013 legislation includes the LoP as a member of the selection committee for appointment of Lokpal which comprises of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Speaker, along with an eminent jurist appointed by them among their ranks.

In April, 2017, the Supreme Court clarified that the Lokpal appointment process need not be stalled merely due to the absence of the Leader of Opposition. The judgment dismissed the government’s reasoning that the Lokpal appointment process should wait till the 2013 Act was amended to replace the LoP with the single largest Opposition party leader in the selection committee.

Former Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) chief Archana Ramasundaram, ex-Maharashtra Chief Secretary Dinesh Kumar Jain, Mahender Singh and Indrajeet Prasad Gautam have been appointed as non-judicial members of Lokpal, according to an official communique.

Justices Dilip B Bhosale, Pradip Kumar Mohanty, Abhilasha Kumari and Ajay Kumar Tripathi have been appointed as judicial members in the anti-corruption ombudsman, the statement by Rashtrapati Bhavan said.

These appointments were recommended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led selection committee and approved by President Ram Nath Kovind. “The above appointments will take effect from the dates they assume charge of their respective offices,” it said.

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

Under the law, the Lokpal hasd the powers to investigate complaints against current and former prime ministers, Union ministers, members of Parliament, government employees and employees of public sector undertakings, and key employees of non-governmental organisations receiving more than Rs 10 lakh a year in foreign contributions, among others.

–India Legal Bureau

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