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April 2019
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National News
Ex-top court judge Justice PC Ghose tipped to be country''s first Lokpal
 
New Delhi: Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose is said to be in active consideration for appointment as the country''s first Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman, officials said Sunday. Justice Ghose, 66, retired as Supreme Court judge in May 2017. He is a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) since June 29, 2017. His name for the post is understood to have been in active consideration by the Lokpal selection panel headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, officials said, without citing further details. There was no official announcement of his appointment by the government.

His appointment, if made, may trigger a political storm as Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had boycotted the selection panel''s meet on Friday. The law, which envisages appointment of a Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in states to look into cases of corruption against certain categories of public servants, was passed on 2013. The development comes a week after the Supreme Court asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to inform it within 10 days about a possible date for meeting of the selection committee. A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A 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. The Supreme Court had on January 17 set up a February-end deadline for the Lokpal search committee to send a panel of names who could be considered for the appointment as its chairman and members. A person who is or has been the Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge is eligible for appointment as Lokpal. According to rules, there is provision for a chairperson and a maximum of eight members in the Lokpal panel.

Of these, four need to be judicial members. Not less than 50 per cent of the members of the Lokpal panel shall be from amongst the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities and women, the rules say. Upon selection, the chairperson and members shall hold office for a term of five years or till they attain 70 years of age. The salary and allowances of the chairman will be same as that of the Chief Justice of India. The members will be paid salary and allowances same as that of a judge of the Supreme Court. The Lokpal selection committee is headed by the prime minister and has as its members -- the Lok Sabha Speaker, leader of the opposition in the lower house, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist who could be nominated by the President or any other member.

President Ram Nath Kovind had nominated former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi as "eminent jurist" as the member of the panel against the vacancy arising following the death of senior advocate P P Rao. Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge had been invited in the past meetings of the selection panel as a "special invitee". However, he had been refusing to attend the meeting since February last year arguing that there was no provision for a special invitee to attend such a meet. In a recent letter to Modi, he alleged that the government has not made any attempt to amend the relevant provisions of the Lokpal Act to include the leader of the single largest party in the opposition as a member of the selection committee. There is no leader of opposition or LoP in the current Lok Sabha.

A party should have at least 55 seats or 10 per cent of the strength of the Lok Sabha for its leader to get the LoP status. The Congress is the single largest opposition party in the lower House but its leader could not be given the LoP status as it does not have the requisite number to qualify for it.


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