Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Capt Amarinder Singh, in a letter to governor Shivraj Patil, has said that the appointment of Justice Jai Singh Sekhon (retd) as the Lokpal of Punjab is a clear case of "conflict of interest" as the latter's brother (Janmeja Singh Sekhon) is a minister in the Punjab cabinet.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Amarinder hinted at approaching the Punjab and Haryana high court against the appointment. He apprehended that the Lokpal appointed by the Akali-BJP government would target Congress leaders. "There have been instances in the past when the Lokpal appointed by the Akali government blatantly targeted Congress leaders," he said.
In the letter to the Governor, with a copy to the chief justice of the high court, Amarinder said, "A state Lokpal is required to be an autonomous, independent-minded and unbiased mandated by the Punjab lokpal Act, to investigate and inquire into complaints of misconduct and corruption against 'public men' which include ministers of the state government, MLAs, chairpersons and members of boards, and corporations".
"It is therefore most imperative and required that such lokpal be a person free of all political associations, affiliations, connections and colour," adds the letter.
Terming Justice Sekhon as politically connected, Amarinder said as his brother is Punjab's irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon. "Besides that", he added, "I am also given to understand that Justice Sekhon's wife is a close relative of the CM, Parkash Singh Badal".
"Such deep family connections with members of the Shiromani Akali Dal has rendered Justice Sekhon 'unsuitable' to assume the office of a lokpal. "There is a clear conflict of interest between the personal life and familial affiliations of Justice Sekhon," remarked Amarinder, quoting national judgments on the similar issues.
Drawing parallels with the judiciary, Capt Amarinder argued, had a judicial matter come up before the court of Justice Sekhon when he was a sitting Judge, pertaining to misconduct or corruption allegations involving members of the Shiromani Akali Dal, judicial propriety and convention would have required that Justice Sekhon to stay away from the matter and transfer case to some other court.
"To my mind, the very same tests of impartiality and conflict of interest would apply to the office of a lokpal. It stands to reason that given his family connections, Justice Sekhon will not be able to independently act as Lokpal on any complaint received against for instance, his step brother or any other friend of colleague of his who is a Minister or a member of the Legislative Assembly", he asserted. Amarinder further told HT that SAD and its coalition partner BJP is raising the issue of appointing Jan lokpal bill in the parliament with the idea to check corruption in government functioning where as Punjab government is biased in making the appointment.