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Lokpal, at last

The selection of Justice P.C. Ghose as the first Lokpal has come after an unjustified delay of five years. Nevertheless (regardless of anything; इसकेबावजूद), it ought to be welcomed as a milestone (a significant stage in the development of something;विकासका एक महत्वपूर्ण चरण) in the cause of fighting corruption in high places. The concept of an institutional mechanism, or an anti-corruption ombudsman (an official appointed to investigate complaints against an organization; लोकपाल/एकसंगठनकेखिलाफशिकायतोंकीजांचकेलिएनियुक्तएकअधिकारी), has been around for over 50 years. It was finally enacted as a law in 2013 and came into effect on January 16, 2014. Some of the credit for driving this legislation must be given to Anna Hazare’s movement against what many saw as unreasonable levels of corruption under the previous UPA regime (administration;शासन/प्रशासन). However, since then, barring (except; बिना)a report by the Standing Committee of Parliament and a couple of amendments passed in 2016 on the declaration of assets (properties;संपत्ति)by public servants, there has been very little progress. At one point, the government’s lack of political will to establish a Lokpal became obvious, leading to the Supreme Court repeatedly asking it to show progress in its efforts. Ultimately, it was the court’s stern (strict;कठोर) ultimatum (a final demand, the rejection of which will result in a breakdown in relations; अंतिम चेतावनी) to appoint a Lokpal within a timeframe that worked. The appointment system is quite long, a two-stage process. A search committee has to be formed. It recommends a panel of names to the high-power selection committee, which comprises the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India (or his nominee) and an eminent (respected;प्रख्यात/आदरणीय)jurist. The selection panel has to choose from a short-list consisting of names for the posts of Lokpal chairperson, and judicial and non-judicial members.

The government had initially taken the position that it was awaiting the passage of amendments based on the parliamentary committee report. One amendment pertained (related;सम्बंधित) to including the leader of the largest party in the Opposition in the selection committee, in the absence of a recognised Leader of the Opposition. In a verdict (an official decision;फैसला)in April 2017, the Supreme Court rejected the excuse and said there was no legal bar (restriction;बंधन/रोक)on the selection committee moving ahead even if there was a vacancy. It is not clear why this simple amendment, carried out in respect of selection committees for the posts of CBI Director and Chief Information Commissioner, was not made in the Lokpal Act. The Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, did not want to attend selection committee meetings as a ‘special invitee’ and wanted full membership. Now that the Lokpal has been chosen, victims of corruption have a viable (appropriate;व्यवहार्य/उपयुक्त) avenue (means;उपाय) of redress (compensation;निवारण/मुआवजा). The Lokpal will take over the work of sanctioning prosecution (the party instituting legal proceedings against someone in a lawsuit;अभियोग/मुकदमामेंकिसीकेखिलाफकानूनीकार्यवाहीकरनेवालीपार्टी;), besides exercising its power to order preliminary inquiries and full-fledged(complete;पूर्ण) investigations (inspection;जांच) by any agency, including the CBI. It may be unrealistic to expect any dramatic (major;नाटकीय/प्रमुख) impact on the lives of the common people, but the Lokpal and other members have a historic (important;ऐतिहासिक/महत्वपूर्ण)responsibility to live up to popular (held by the majority of people;लोकप्रिय/अधिकांशलोगोंद्वाराआयोजित) expectations.

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