Petition Asks Complicit Anti-Corruption Authority Lokpal Officers to Resign
Instead of investigating and prosecuting the corruption cases, Lokpal authority is complicit in massive financial crimes running into thousands of crores of rupees (or billions of dollars).
By Rakesh Raman
An online petition has exposed the corruption at India’s top anti-corruption authority Lokpal which is supposed to stop corruption in the country. The petition addressed to the Chairperson Lokpal asserts that the Lokpal officials are squandering huge public money without any accountability.
Available on an American public petition website, the petition argues that the Lokpal office – which was formed in 2019 – has completely failed to check corruption and it has become a senior citizens’ club. Since the Lokpal performance has been pathetic, people have stopped filing their complaints to the anti-corruption ombudsman.
In fact, the government of prime minister (PM) Narendra Modi had appointed Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose as the Lokpal of India to hush up the corruption cases of top bureaucrats and politicians instead of convicting the corrupt government functionaries.
Actually, Modi himself is allegedly embroiled in a slew of major corruption cases, including the Rafale deal, secretly floated PM-CARES Fund, Sahara-Birla payoff case, and a number of other scandals in which his party colleagues are purportedly involved.
But instead of investigating and prosecuting the corruption cases, Lokpal authority is complicit in these massive financial crimes running into thousands of crores of rupees (or billions of dollars).
As a result of bureaucratic and political corruption, the people of India are suffering under unprecedented inflation, pollution, hunger, unemployment, human rights violations, injustice, and extreme misery.
DUBIOUS SELECTION OF LOKPAL
While there have been serious doubts over the manner in which the anti-corruption office Lokpal was set up, reports suggest that the entire exercise of the appointment of Lokpal was held in a dubious manner.
As the government-appointed ombudsman is responsible for investigating corruption cases of the Central government and its public functionaries, the office of Lokpal was established in March 2019 when Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose was handpicked as the Chairperson.
Since the selection process was not transparent, a Congress leader and Member of Parliament (MP, Lok Sabha) Mallikarjun Kharge had declined to attend a meeting to select the Lokpal. Kharge also said that the meeting was held superficially only to satisfy the order dated February 23, 2018 of the Supreme Court regarding the appointment of Lokpal.
Letter by LS LoP @MallikarjunINC to the Prime Minister declining invitation to the ‘Selection Committee’ of the Lokpal as a ‘Special Invitee’. pic.twitter.com/zQgf0WL8HC
— INC Sandesh (@INCSandesh) March 1, 2018
Kharge added in his statement that the conduct of the government seeks to diminish the spirit and objective of the appointment of Lokpal in as much as it seeks to deny participation, voice, and opinion of the opposition.
As the opposition leader in the Lokpal selection committee, Kharge also posted on Twitter a letter which he had sent to PM Modi declining an invitation to the ‘Selection Committee’ of the Lokpal as a ‘Special Invitee’.
In order to keep the Lokpal selection process under wraps, the Central Information Commission (CIC) – which is also an obedient department of the government – refused to disclose the minutes of the meetings of the Selection Committee for the Lokpal.
An RTI (Right to Information) activist Anjali Bhardwaj had filed a petition with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), seeking records related to the process of selection of the Chairperson and Members of the Lokpal.
CIC refuses to disclose minutes of meetings of Selection Committee for Lokpal under #RTI . Upholds denial by DoPT on grounds that minutes were supplied in confidence by 3-5 high level dignitaries! Transparency in appointments is key to ensure public trust in bodies like #Lokpal pic.twitter.com/eo7fj3JR9A
— Anjali Bhardwaj (@AnjaliB_) February 12, 2021
It was argued in her appeal that transparency in the appointment of oversight bodies is a crucial safeguard against arbitrariness in appointments and to ensure their independent functioning.
However, according to a report of February 10, 2021 by The Wire news service, the CIC has refused to entertain the request regarding the meeting details of the Lokpal Selection Committee.
“CIC refuses to disclose minutes of meetings of the Selection Committee for Lokpal under RTI. Upholds denial by DoPT on grounds that minutes were supplied in confidence by 3-5 high level dignitaries! Transparency in appointments is key to ensure public trust in bodies like Lokpal,” Ms. Bhardwaj expressed in her tweet of February 12, 2021.
TOOTHLESS ANTI-CORRUPTION AGENCIES
Today, most anti-corruption organizations such as the Lokpal, Lokayukta, Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Economic Offences Wings (EOWs) of police, state vigilance departments, and the Supreme Court of India exist only as toothless outfits that have repeatedly failed to resolve serious corruption cases involving top bureaucrats and politicians. Worse, these outfits exist to protect corrupt bureaucrats and politicians.
The Lokpal was expected to weed out massive corruption from India, but it appears that this office exists only as a stillborn body which is protecting the corrupt government functionaries instead of catching them.
The immediate task before the Lokpal was to resolve the pending corruption cases in which top politicians and bureaucrats are facing serious corruption charges. But even after 3 years of its existence, the Lokpal could not resolve even a single such case.
The Lokpal office is working so carelessly that it could not even make processes to deal with corruption cases. While Lokpal is squandering huge public funds and sitting like a parasitical outfit, it is being observed that corruption has increased manifold under the Modi government.
Apart from bureaucratic and political corruption, there are also reports of judicial corruption under Modi’s regime, and corruption is the main cause of socio-economic meltdown and increasing unrest in India.
As the focus of the Modi government is on encouraging corruption and ignoring governance, global research reveals that India has almost lost its status of democracy and it has become an autocratic country under Modi.
Political and bureaucratic corruption is the main cause of unemployment, poverty, pollution, sickness, and hunger in India. And for all this misery, institutions such as the Lokpal are responsible. Therefore, the top bosses at Lokpal must take moral responsibility and step down from their positions.
And it will be the right step to wind up the Lokpal office and all other anti-corruption government departments instead of wasting public money on them. The sooner the better.
The ongoing online petition also has the same demand. The petition urges the Lokpal bureaucrats that if they are not able to perform, they must resign from their positions. As of March 5, 2022, more than 22,000 people had signed the petition which is available on Change.org website.
By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society. He also runs The Integrity Bulletin news magazine on international corruption cases and issues.
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