Ex-SC judge picked, Kharge refused to attend selection panel meeting
Retired Supreme Court Judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, 66, has been recommended to be India’s first Lokpal or anti-corruption ombudsman of India. His name was finalised and recommended by the Selection Committee comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, eminent jurist Mukul Rohatgi. Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Congress member Mallikarjun Kharge, who is part of the Committee, did not attend the meeting.
Justice Ghose was one of the leading names shortlisted earlier by the Lokpal Search Committee.
Sources said the notification for the appointment of the Lokpal, as well as selection of eight others as members of the national anti-corruption ombudsman, is expected to be issued early next week. Sources said it could be made public before the next date of hearing on the matter in Supreme Court, which is slated to be held later this month.
The appointment of Justice Ghose, however, if made, may trigger a political storm as Congress leader Kharge had boycotted the selection panel’s meet on Friday. Kharge was called in as a special invitee to the selection committee meeting but he refused to attend. Kharge pointed that a special invitee would not have any rights to vote and that the Opposition was being made “voiceless” in a critical matter.
Justice Ghose retired from the Supreme Court in May 2017. He has been serving as a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) since June 2017. He was also the former Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and a former judge of the Calcutta High Court. As the Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, he had convicted Sasikala, the live-in companion of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, in a corruption case.
The appointment has come through five years after the Lokpal Act was notified for effecting a panel of ombudsmen to look into cases of corruption and maladministration by public servants. What makes the Lokpal powerful is the authority under the law 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 Rs10 lakh a year in foreign contributions, among others.
The Lokpal is expected to work along with the Central Vigilance Commission and can order any investigating agency, including CBI, to probe
allegations of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
A Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna was on March 7 informed by Venugopal that the Lokpal search committee headed by former apex court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai has recommended three panels of names to the selection committee for appointment of chairperson, judicial and non-judicial members in the anti-graft body.
The Attorney General had told the Bench that he will ask the secretary of the Department of Personnel and Training to ensure that the meeting of the selection committee is convened as early as possible. The top court had refused to pass directions to disclose names in the three panels. Following the court’s proceedings, a meeting of selection panel was held on Friday.
Though the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act were notified in early 2014, but no one was appointed as the Lokpal till now. Supreme Court in January had pulled up the Centre for repeatedly delaying the appointment of the Lokpal. On March 7, a Supreme Court Bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi had asked the Narendra Modi Government to inform the court within a fortnight by when it would finalise the names.
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