The selection of justice ‘P.C. Ghose’ as the first Lokpal has come after an unjustified delay of five years. Nevertheless, it ought to be welcomed as a milestone in the cause of fighting corruption in high places.
‘Sweden’ is the first country to set up an institution of ombudsman. In India, the idea of an ombudsman first came up in parliament in 1963. Eight attempts were made from 1968 to 2011 to pass the bill but in vain. It finally got shape with the passing of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, in 2013 but only after a nationwide protest led by “India against corruption”, a civil society movement of activist “Anna Hazare”. In 2016, after a couple of amendments, it passed from both the houses and Lokpal became obvious.
The act allows the setting up anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the centre and Lokayukta at the state level. The Lokpal consists of a chairman and a maximum of eight members. A five-member panel comprising the prime minister, the Lok Sabha speaker, the leader of the opposition, the Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist nominated by the president select the Lokpal.
The Lokpal will cover all categories of public servants including the prime minister. But armed forces do not come under the ambit of Lokpal.
The Lokpal will take over the work of sanctioning prosecution, besides exercising its power to order preliminary inquiries and full-fledged investigations by any agency. It may be unrealistic to expect any dramatic impact on the lives of the common people but the Lokpal and other members have a historic responsibility to live up to popular expectations.
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