India’s federal anti-corruption ombudsman, the Lokpal, officially commenced functioning on Tuesday with the country’s president appointing former Supreme Court judge Pinaki Chandra Ghose as the body’s first chairperson, along with eight other members.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, which mandates the setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman bodies at the federal and state levels, was enacted in 2013 and received presidential assent on January 1, 2014. Appointments were delayed, and it took over five years for the federal ombudsman to be established.
Under Section 3 of the statute, the Lokpal chairperson may be a current or former Chief Justice of India. The body may also be chaired by a person who is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court, or an “eminent person of impeccable integrity,” with special knowledge and expertise in matters relating to “anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management.”
Section 14(1)(a) authorizes the ombudsman to inquire into allegations of corruption against current and former prime ministers. However, this power is restricted, as Section 14(1)(a)(i) prohibits inquiries into allegations of prime ministerial corruption related to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy, and space.
Allegations of corruption by federal ministers and members of parliament are also in the ombudsman’s jurisdiction. But the body cannot inquire into allegations of corruption against any member of parliament in respect of anything said or done in parliament.