President appoints ex-SC judge Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar as Lokpal chairperson | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

President appoints ex-SC judge Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar as Lokpal chairperson

Feb 27, 2024 08:56 PM IST

Justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar will be the second Lokpal of India, after Pinaki Chandra Ghose, who retired in May 2022 after a two-year tenure in office

The President of India, Droupadi Murmu, on Tuesday appointed former Supreme Court judge, justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar as the chairperson of Lokpal.

Justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar. (File)
Justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar. (File)

The appointment was announced nearly three weeks after a selection committee of the Prime Minister, speaker of Lok Sabha, leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India, shortlisted his name.

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Khanwilkar will be the second Lokpal of India, after Pinaki Chandra Ghose, who retired in May 2022 after a two-year tenure in office. Former chief justice of the Jharkhand high court, justice Pradip Kumar Mohanty is currently the acting chairperson and judicial member.

The President also appointed former high court chief justices -- justice Lingappa Narayana Swamy, justice Sanjay Yadav, justice Ritu Raj Awasthi – as judicial members. Three others Sushil Chandra, Pankaj Kumar and Ajay Tirkey were appointed as the non-judicial members.

Chandra is a former chief election commissioner. Awasthi is currently the chairperson of the law commission. With Awasthi’s appointment, the government will have to select a new chairperson at the Law Commission.

“The above appointments will take effect from the dates they assume charge of their respective offices,” a press statement from the Rashtrapati Bhawan said.

The Lokpal has been established under the Lokayukta Act 2013 to investigate allegations of corruption against public functionaries who fall within the scope and ambit of the Act. The Lok Pal consists of a chairperson and eight members out of whom 50% are judicial members. The members hold a term of five years or until they attain the age of 70 years.

The Lokpal has jurisdiction to inquire into allegations of corruption against anyone who is the prime minister, a minister in the Union government, a member of Parliament, or an official of the Union government under Groups A, B, C and D. The jurisdiction also covers chairpersons, members, officers and directors of any board, corporation, society, trust or autonomous body either established by an Act of Parliament or wholly or partly funded by the Centre or state government.

To be sure, the Lokpal cannot inquire on allegations against PM in matters related to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space. It also cannot launch such an inquiry, unless a full bench of the Lokpal consisting of its chairperson and all members considers the initiation of an inquiry and at least two-thirds of its members approve it.

The new Lokpal chairperson Khanwilkar was confirmed as a permanent judge in the Bombay high court in April 2002. For seven months in 2013, he had been the chief justice of the Himachal Pradesh high court and was then appointed the chief justice of the Madhya Pradesh high court in November 2013. He was elevated to the Supreme Court in May 2016 and served a six-year term until his retirement in July 2022. Khanwilkar was a part of the majority of the five-judge bench that held that right to die with dignity is a fundamental right under Article 21 in Common Cause v Union of India (2018), thereby allowing the patient to refuse medical treatment in cases of terminal illness.

A judicial member whose appointment was announced on Tuesday, said, “We are yet to be told about the date of appointment. For now, only the announcement has been made.”

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