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Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose was administered the oath of office as the country’s first Lokpal by President Ram Nath Kovind today (Saturday, March 23).

The oath was administered at a ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, a communique issued by the President’s office said.

Justice PC Ghose, a former Supreme Court judge, was named the country’s first Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman on March 19, Tuesday. This came over five years after the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act received the President’s nod on Jan 1, 2014. The appointment was made after the Narendra Modi government – which rode to power on the back of a massive anti-corruption movement but had been dragging its feet on the matter ever since – was faced with a contempt action by the Supreme Court.

A high-level selection committee comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, the panel’s “eminent jurist member”, cleared Justice Ghose’ name at its meeting on Friday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu and Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi were present on the occasion.

Former Chief Justices of different high courts – Justices Dilip B Bhosale, Pradip Kumar Mohanty, Abhilasha Kumari – besides sitting Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court Ajay Kumar Tripathi were appointed as judicial members in the Lokpal.

Former first woman chief of Sashastra Seema Bal Archana Ramasundaram, ex-Maharashtra chief secretary Dinesh Kumar Jain, former IRS officer Mahender Singh and Gujarat cadre ex-IAS officer Indrajeet Prasad Gautam are the Lokpal’s non-judicial members.

Justice Ghose, 66, was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court in March 2013 and retired in May 2017. He was serving as the member of the National Human Rights Commission when his name was announced for the post of Lokpal chairperson. Justice Ghose

The Lokpal and the Lokayukta Act, 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 in 2013.

According to the 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 shall be from amongst the persons belonging to the scheduled castes, 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 the same as that of the Chief Justice of India.

The members will be paid salary and same allowances as that of a judge of the Supreme Court.

Setting up the Lokpal panel is just the first step. It has to set up its various wings.

It will have an “Inquiry Wing, headed by the Director of Inquiry, for the purpose of conducting preliminary inquiry into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988”.

It will also have a “Prosecution Wing, headed by the Director of Prosecution, for the purpose of prosecution of public servants in relation to any complaint by the Lokpal under this Act”.

 

Public servants under Lokpal purview

The Lokpal has powers to look into corruption charges against a wide range of public servants — from the Prime Minister, ministers and MPs, to groups A, B, C and D employees of the central government.

Prime Minister: In case of a complaint filed against the Prime Minister, the Act says, “Lokpal shall inquire or cause an inquiry to be conducted into any matter involved in, or arising from, or connected with, any allegation of corruption made in a complaint”.

However, certain conditions will apply.

The Act does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the Prime Minister relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space.

Also, complaints against the Prime Minister are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of an inquiry and at least two-thirds of the members approve it.

Such an inquiry against the Prime Minister (if conducted) is to be held in camera and if the Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, the records of the inquiry are not to be published or made available to anyone.

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