A conspicuous silence shrouds the social composition of the recently constituted Lokpal, India’s anti-corruption body, empowered to inquire into complaints against the prime minister, ministers and members of parliament, among others. The upper castes and other dominant social groups account for as high as 77.7 percent of the Lokpal’s members—upper castes alone account for 55.5 percent. It does not have a single member from the Other Backward Classes and the Scheduled Tribes. The body comprises only one Dalit member, and religious minorities have been represented by a Jain—an ironic choice, given that the community was officially recognised as a part of the Hindu fold until January 2014, when it was accorded a minority status.
This skewed social composition violates the spirit of the provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013, which establishes the anti-corruption body and mandates reservations among its members. The act prescribes a nine-member body, presided by a chairperson, and states that 50 percent of its eight remaining members “shall be from amongst the persons belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Minorities and women.”
The act also states that the Lokpal’s members would be chosen by a selection committee led by the prime minister—who is designated as the chairperson—the Lok Sabha speaker, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, the chief justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by the chief justice, and one eminent jurist recommended by the chairperson and the three other members. The committee that selected the Lokpal did not, however, have any representation from the opposition because the Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge boycotted the selection proceedings. Kharge was seeking an amendment to the Lokpal act that would include the leader of the single largest opposition party as a member of the selection committee. The committee, in turn, is required to constitute a search committee of at least seven members that would shortlist candidates for appointment to the Lokpal. The Lokpal act prescribes a similar 50-percent reservation for the search committee as well.