Selection criteria for the Chairperson and members
The Lok Pal Bill of the Government has one Chairperson who is or has been the Chief Justice or a Judge of the Supreme Court, and two members who are or have been Judges of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justices of the High Courts. One can clearly see that the membership is very exclusive and limited to only members of the Judiciary. With the public perception of the Judiciary being what it is and one Chief Justice of a High Court currently facing impeachment proceedings, one can rightly feel that this would not be appropriate.
The Jan Lok Pal Bill is more broad-based and talks of the appointed members being:
- Citizens of India
- Above 40 years of age at the time of appointment
- Never charge-sheeted for any offence under IPC or Prevention of Corruption Act
- Never penalized under Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules
It also mentions that at least 4 members of the Lok Pal are to have legal background. Not more that two members, including the Chairman, shall be former civil servants. Members should have unimpeachable integrity and should have demonstrated their resolve to fight corruption in the past.
The Lok Ayukta as per the Karnataka Lok Ayukta Act, 1984 should have held the office of a Judge of the Supreme Court or that of the Chief Justice of a High Court. The Upa Lok Ayukta should have held the office of the Judge of the High Court.
The 2nd ARC is also specific, but is once again heavily skewed in favour of the judiciary and the legal profession. It allows for a:
- A serving or retired Supreme Court Judge as member Chairperson
- Eminent jurist as the member-2
- Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) as the ex-officio member-3
The 2nd ARC also limits the membership of the Lok Pal to one term of three years only. Members are also not to hold any other office after Lok Pal, except the CJ of the Supreme Court of India.
The general consensus that is emerging today is that the Lok Pal should be a multi-member commission and should be populated with people who are either from the judicial background or eminent personalities from Civil Society or the public sector, provided there is no compromise on character, integrity and competence. The Chairperson is to be from the higher judiciary.
Fighting corruption has remained the exclusive preserve of the judiciary and Government agencies for too long. With the changing realities and context, we now need to understand the complexities of corruption that can range from simple bribes (the policeman on the street) to skewed policies (telecom scam) to economic offences (money laundering, etc) to electoral offences. This calls for people with expertise and competence of high levels. Specialized investigating wings (Economic offences Directorate or the anti-corruption wing of the CBI) need people with proven administrative skills to manage them. One also needs to keep in mind that the current climate is to completely insulate the Lok Pal from political pressures and this could work both ways. On one hand it can ensure greater fairness and transparency, but it could also reduce the accountability of the institution. One needs to ensure that the Lok Pal does not become a runaway rogue and suitable checks and balances has to be integrated into the Act itself. A multi-member commission with independent thinking members of a high caliber could possibly address this.
(to be continued…)