By A Special Correspondent
Although none of the political parties had the will to have a Lokpal in place, the country is going to have its first anti-corruption ombudsman in Justice (Retd) Pinaki Chandra Ghose. The need for having Lokayuktas in the states and Lokpal at the centre was first espoused by The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) headed by Morarji Desai which submitted a special interim report on "Problems of Redressal of Citizen's Grievances" in 1966. In this report, the ARC recommended the setting up of two special authorities designated as 'Lokpal' and 'Lokayukta' for the redressal of citizens' grievances. Although many states subsequently enacted Lokayukta Acts and Lokayuktas were appointed, no perceived benefit has been felt barring stray cases. The Lokpal movement gathered speed after Anna Hazare started his campaign under the “India Against Corruption” banner.
Hence it is that there has been a muted response to the announcement of the Lokpal. That the Modi government tried to delay the appointment till the fag end of its term shows that the seriousness was not there despite its overtly anti-corruption image. In the end, it was the verbal lashing and the deadline set by the Supreme Court that did the trick. Any anti-corruption ombudsman can be effective only if complete support is provided by the government of the day and the legislation gives power and authority to the body. It is seen from the working of the state Lokayuktas that some state Acts do not allow the Lokayukta to move against the chief minister in certain cases. Also, the necessary support in terms of funding and infrastructure is not provided. This weakens the institution and makes it ineffective.
It remains to be seen whether the Lokpal will be able to do what the Lokayuktas in various states have not been able to. The Lokpal Act as it exists does not inspire much confidence. Further, for a Lokpal to be truly effective, the institution should not be dependent on the government for anything. Unless that happens we can never hope to see a reduction in corruption, let alone its disappearance altogether.