Here’s what India’s first anti-corruption ombudsman is up against

Here’s what India’s first anti-corruption ombudsman is up against
Former Indian Supreme Court Judge, Pinaki Chandra Ghose, is the chairman of it's first anti-corruption ombudsmanBCCL
  • Panaki Chandra Ghose was just appointed as the chairman of India’s first anti-corruption ombudsman or Lokpal.
  • The Lokpal will look into incidents of corruption within the Indian government.
  • But the scope of its investigation is limited since it’s not allowed to investigate cases related to foreign affairs, space and defence.
India’s first chairman of the Lokpal or anti-corruption ombudsman, Pinaki Chandra Ghose, is going to have his hands full as he takes on his new role. He’s already served as a former Supreme Court judge and is currently a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

Corruption has been a burgeoning topic in India — especially with Modi’s recent #chowkidar campaign on Twitter — but there’s little to suggest to actual on-ground improvement. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), India’s score only improved by one point between 2017 and 2018.

In fact, the global watchdog pegs India as one of the worst offenders in the Asia-Pacific region.

It’s unclear whether the Lokpal will be looking into petty corruption or big-ticket corruption as its primary mandate. Deterring the problem from both ends is important in a country like India where, on the one hand, more than 62% of Indians have paid off a public official for a job and, on the other hand, you have the big-ticket scams like the allocation of funds during the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

To probe or not to probe?

While finally having a Lokpal in place might be good for the general public, one of sectors most vulnerable to corruption — is aerospace and defense and one that the ombudsman can’t touch. According to an Ernst and Young report, aerospace and defence is perceived to be the third most vulnerable sector to corruption.

This means that incidents like the Rafale Deal or the BOFORS case — some of the most contentious armed deals in the country — won’t come under the Lokpal’s purview.

But, on the other hand, the 2G spectrum case or ‘Coalgate’ — where the allocation of resources came into question — would be incidents that the Lokpal would look into.

One of the more recent corruption allegations were actually within India’s Central Bureau of Investigation where Alok Verma, the CBI director and his deputy, Rakesh Asthana both accused the other of being corrupt. Both were, subsequently, asked to resign from their posts at the bureau.

The investigation is still pending and several other senior officers have also been put on ‘indefinite leave’ until the matter is sorted.

And corruption isn’t limited to India’s borders either. According to the ‘Export Corruption Report’ by Transparency International, India among four countries that has ‘little or no enforcement’ in place to check against against foreign bribery.

But, then again, the Lokpal is restricted from looking into incidents of corruption when it comes to foreign affairs.

India already has the Central Vigilance Commission to address governmental corruption but even though it’s an autonomous body, it’s not an investigative agency. And, the Prevention of Corruption Act is which aimed at combating corruption in the government has largely been misused due to Section 13(1)d, which allowed honest officials to be prosecuted serving as deterrent to bold decision making.