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Posted at: Mar 19, 2019, 6:32 AM; last updated: Mar 19, 2019, 6:32 AM (IST)

Finally, a Lokpal

Welcome step, much delayed
Finally, a Lokpal

India may finally have an Ombudsman, someone charged with checking corruption and looking into complaints against public servants, including ministers, bureaucrats and even former prime ministers. The Lokpal Act, 2013, came about after a prolonged struggle, notably by social activist Anna Hazare. Lack of political will ensured delay in the implementation of the Act, and it took a nudge from the Supreme Court for the government to get going on selecting the Lokpal. 

The Selection Committee itself was formed five years after the Act, that too after an NGO filed a contempt petition against the government in the Supreme Court. It is supposed to comprise the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist. Once constituted, the committee had its issues. Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress representative, did not attend the meetings. He was protesting the government’s decision to call him a ‘special invitee’ instead of Leader of the Opposition. Both sides stuck to their stand, leading to the delay. 

The expected announcement of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose as the first Lokpal will, hopefully, set to rest all earlier controversies and delays. He and the members of his team will need proper infrastructure and full support of the government to perform. The experience in various states where the institution of Lokpal exists has shown that adequate support is seldom extended. The country has a crying need for an empowered Ombudsman. The new team has its task cut out. Even if it is hampered at some levels, it would realise the tremendous power of the public which is looking up to it to cleanse the Augean stables of public life. Fighting corruption is now a political battle cry; it is high time the institution created for this express purpose be empowered so that real change can come about in the country and its polity.

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