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Millennium Post

Save Lokpal from controversies

The institution of Lokpal has been in the making for nearly 50 years now. For the first time the idea of public ombudsman emerged in the 1960s and got crystallized in the 1970s during the Janata Party regime. However, it was during the civil society movement under Anna Hazare in 2011 that the demand for creation of this institution got real impetus and forced the government into bringing a law in Parliament. The journey since the summer of 2011 too has been tumultuous with the Lokpal movement itself splitting with a more radical group led by Arvind Kejriwal walking out to form a political party, contest assembly elections in Delhi, form a government and see its fall over the passage of state ombudsman act.

On the other hand the more conservative group under Anna Hazare pushed and prodded Parliament to finally pass an act for setting up of the Lokpal last year. Thereafter the process of the appointment of the first Lokpal started to only hit a roadblock with former solicitor general Fali Nariman withdrawing himself from the selection process  fearing that ‘the multi- layered (selection) procedure could overlook the most competent, independent and courageous persons.’

Nariman’s point is valid to some extent. The appointment of Lokpal and its members is proposed to be done through a two-layer process. First the applications are to be whetted by an eight member search committee to prepare a panel and send it to the selection committee consisting of prime minister, speaker of Lok Sabha, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, a nominee of the Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist. When government decided to appoint PP Rao on the selection committee, leader of opposition raised objection on the matter but she was outvoted.

Before the dust could settle on the appointment of Rao, now Nariman has kicked some more raising questions about the process.  In Nariman’s understanding the focus of the ‘current process is to project the chairperson and members of the Lokpal, as ultimately selected, to be democratically chosen by a broad consensus from among two levels of selectors.’ And he says that consensus being the focus, the quality of selection could get compromised. Nariman is pointing to the ideal situation but when the environment of distrust pervades public domain and the very creation of Lokpal is its fallout, there could possibly be no better way than have broad consensus and democratic procedure to ensure people’s confidence in the institution of ombudsman. The need of the hour is to make the Lokpal, whose very utility is being questioned, first functional and that too in a manner to save it from any public distrust. Nariman’s action in no way has helped the matter.
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