At last, India gets a Lokpal, the anti-corruption watchdog. For the past five decades, there were many demands made for setting up of the institution called Lokpal and all the parties in power at the Centre scuttled establishing this anti-corruption body, though many states created Lokayukta, the anti-corruption body for the state. Seeing how Lokayuktas fixed the fate of many a Chief Minister, all Prime Ministers including Narendra Modi were reluctant to form the powerful body of Lokpal at the Centre. But now it has happened.
Let us hope that Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose will lead this great institution – Lokpal – in the right direction.
Due to the massive anti-corruption wave in 2011, all parties were forced to agree to pass the current Lokpal Act in 2013. But the Modi Government which came to power riding the anti-corruption wave against the Congress Government (which was caught with its hand in the cookie jar), tread softly on this and at last was forced to act after the Supreme Court gave strong directions to form the office of the Lokpal in a specified time.
On Tuesday, President Ram Nath Kovind appointed former Supreme Court Judge P C Ghose as the Chairperson of Lokpal and four judicial members and four non-judicial members. The four judicial members in the Lokpal are Justice Dilip B Bhosale, Justice Pradip Kumar Mohanty, Justice Abhilasha Kumari and Justice Ajay Kumar Tripathi. The qualification for the Judicial Members is that they must either be Supreme Court judges or Chief Justices of High Courts.
The four Non-Judicial members appointed in the newly created Lokpal are – Dinesh Kumar Jain, Archana Ramasundaram, Mahender Singh and Indrajeet Prasad Gautam. The Lokpal Act prescribes the qualification that these members have “impeccable integrity and outstanding ability having special knowledge and expertise of not less than twenty-five years in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management”. So this provision gives wide scope and normally retired officers are preferred.
Certain names of members in the Lokpal panel have raised eyebrows. The moment the search panel was announced, it created some doubts that there will be some interesting choices. And these doubts got amplified when one person’s name was announced in the Selection panel headed by Prime Minister. Which one, you ask? Read on.
The Chairperson of Lokpal is retired Chief Justice P C Ghose. His landmark judgment along with Justice Amitava Roy convicting former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her aide Sasikala is a remarkable judgment in the annals of anti-corruption. Justice Ghose, who headed the Bench had quashed one of the most dubious judgments given by the Karnataka High Court (HC) Judge Justice C R Kumaraswamy. This Karnataka HC Judgment was a total sham and saved Jayalalithaa and Sasikala who were convicted by the bold trial court Judge John Michael D’Cunha, who is now elevated as a High Court Judge in Karnataka. Justice Ghose headed Supreme Court Bench rectified the dubious judgment of Justice Kumaraswamy and gave hope to people that justice will be done.
Justice Abhilasha Kumari
But some names in the newly formed Lokpal have evoked curiosity in the minds of the general public. Especially the selection of Retired Justice Abhilasha Kumari. She is the eldest daughter of veteran Congress leader and former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Vir Bhadra Singh. It is a known secret that she passed several judgments in the cases pertaining to the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, including the transfer of some cases to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), during UPA regime. From 2006, she was posted in the Gujarat High Court and many of her judgments were nightmares to Modi and Amit Shah, including the transfer of terrorist Ishrat Jehan encounter case to the CBI, declaring it as a false encounter. Many judgments of Justice Abhilasha Kumari were termed as being politically motivated and many fell flat in the trial courts. Though she had passed many a judgment critical of Modi, in February 2018, she was elevated as Manipur High Court Chief Justice and served only 13 days before retirement. Soon after, the BJP-led Gujarat Government gave her a plum post-retirement as the head of Human Rights Commission!!! Is Prime Minister Modi so benevolent to a judge, who passed doubtful and politically motivated orders against him, which was expected to land him under CBI custody?
There is another curious take to this entire episode. The CBI under BJP Government in 2015 raided the home and office of the then Chief Minister Vir Bhadra Singh. The matter was frankly a small issue related to Income Tax returns. Those days many alleged that Modi was taking revenge against Justice Abhilasha Kumari. But the fact was that the raid occurred due to a crude move by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who wanted to settle scores with Vir Bhadra Singh in cricket tussles related to frauds in the construction of Dharamsala Cricket Stadium. Jaitley’s close friend Jyotsna Suri, owner of Bharat Hotels also constructed a Hotel, known as Hotel Pavilion in the ecologically sensitive stadium complex. Further, Vir Bhadra Singh was trying to fix Himachal Pradesh Cricket administrator and BJP leader Anurag Thakur in the stadium construction-related issue so some arm twisting was done.
So many wonder how Justice Abhilasha Kumari, who pronounced politically motivated judgments against Narendra Modi became a member in the Lokpal, selected by the committee headed by Modi. The answer is that in politics, anything can happen.
How controversial police officer Archana Ramasundaram became a member in Lokpal is even more curious. She was caught for illegal posting in CBI during the tainted corrupt Director Ranjit Sinha’s tenure by violating Central Vigilance Commission norms during Congress regime. She was declared by her cadre State Tamil Nadu as a “deserted officer” and shunted out after Supreme Court’s intervention.
Another curiosity among people is the appointment of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officer Mahender Singh as a member. This NDA Government did not appoint him as the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) Chairman due to the many complaints it received and Singh’s junior was made the CBEC Chairperson. The grapevine is that Singh was trying to enter politics in his home state of Haryana and was close with many Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leaders including the Chautala family and there were reports that Singh may contest in the coming Lok Sabha elections as an INLD candidate.
The Lokpal Search committee also created doubts in the minds of common man due to the presence of State Bank of India’s former head Arundhati Bhattacharya, under whose tenure some of the biggest banking scams and Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) happened. PGurus have reported about Arundhati Bhattacharya frauds in saving corporates from banking frauds, especially in the coal scam.
Selection Panel members
Prime Minister headed Lok Pal Selection panel has a Member who is supposed to be an Eminent Jurist. Don’t laugh when you know the name of the Eminent Jurist appointed to select Lokpal, the anti-corruption body. It is the former Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for many corrupt persons including 2G scamsters before becoming the AG. PGurus had exposed him for traveling with a smuggler when he was the AG. It is a known fact that due to the pressure of Jaitley, Modi was forced to appoint Rohatgi as Attorney General. Worse, Rohatgi even welcomed the bad judgment in the 2G Scam! Before becoming the AG, Rohatgi was arguing for 2G scamsters and still, he was appointed as the AG by the BJP Government, which came to power challenging Congress Government’s scams. The selection of Mukul Rohatgi as an eminent jurist invokes laughter.
Let us see how the newly created Lokpal system works. Let us hope that Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose will lead this great institution – Lokpal – in the right direction.
 Is Arundhati Bhattacharya protecting Coal importers who indulged in over-invoicing? Jul 23, 2016, PGurus.com
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