India’s highest anti-corruption body, Lokpal pays Rs 50 lakh per month as rent to state-owned Hotel Ashoka in New Delhi, where it is operating from, as the body has not yet been allotted a permanent office space, Hindustan Times reported.
According to a reply under the Right To Information Act, “Lokpal is provisionally operating from the Ashoka Hotel. Total monthly rent is around Rs 50 lakh and Rs 3 crore 85 lakh has been paid till now ( from 22 March, 2019 to 31 October, 2019) for rent fixed by the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT).”
Former judge of the Supreme Court, Pinaki Chandra Ghose was, in March this year, appointed as country’s first Lokpal by the central government. Four judicial and four non-judicial members were also appointed to nine posts in the office of the lokpal. The body was set up to investigate the complaints of corruption of people holding public offices, including the prime minister and ministers of Central and State governments.
The office of Lokpal, ever since, has occupied 12 rooms on the second floor of Ashoka Hotel for its office space and has been operating from there.
RTI activist Subham Khatri had recently filed an inquiry under the RTI Act seeking information about the functioning of Lokpal and disposal of complaints.
The response given by the office of Lokpal also tells that, out of 1,160 corruption complaints received by Lokpal against public servants, none of them merited in-depth investigation. “A total of 1,160 complaints have been received by Lokpal to date out of which 1000 complaints have been heard by the bench of Lokpal. Preliminary inquiry has now been initiated in any of these complaints and in no case Lokpal had initiated full investigation yet,” reads the RTI reply.
RTI activist Shubham Khatri said,“ According to law, Lokpal has the authority to inquire into cases of corruption and also seek the help of CBI or other police agencies for investigation purposes. But, I am surprised that of more than a 1000 complaints received by the Lokpal in the past seven months, none is worthy of investigation.”
However, Lokpal justice P C Ghose, responding to a query on rent and handling of cases, chose not to comment on the issue offhand, and said that a permanent office space had been found. “We have already identified a permanent office space for Lokpal, We are looking into it as some changes have to be made in the office space and soon the office will move there,” he said.
Commenting on the matter, Retired justice and former Lokayukta of Karnataka N Santosh Hegde said, there was nothing wrong in rent being paid to Ashoka Hotel.
“So far as my experience goes, it is an absolute necessity to have the institution of Lokpal even if they are spending Rs 50 lakhs per month for office rental. I don’t see any problem is that because the money is going from one pocket to another pocket of the government,” he said.