‘Job only to pick names provided by Centre’

In a setback for the UPA government’s efforts to put in place the Lokpal before the expiry of its term, former Supreme Court Judge K.T. Thomas on Monday decided not to head the search committee.

The panel’s mandate is to forward names to a selection committee headed by the Prime Minister for appointment of the chairperson and other members of the Lokpal.

Last week, eminent lawyer Fali Nariman declined to be part of the same panel stating that the current selection process would overlook “the most competent, the most independent and the most courageous.”

Speaking to The Hindu from Kottayam, Justice Thomas said, “When Mr. Nariman opted out of the search panel, I got a copy of the Lokpal rules and after going through the rules I fully agree with what Mr. Nariman has said.”

He found the “recommendations of the search committee are not binding on the selection committee. Therefore, the work of the search committee can as well be done by the selection committee itself.” In his letter to Minister of State in the PMO V. Narayanasamy, in which he declined to be part of the search committee, Justice Thomas said its job was only to pick names from the list given by the Department of Personnel and not make an independent search.

He said the move to seek applications from persons to be considered for Lokpal membership had been widely criticised, and there was no doubt it would deter deserving persons from being considered. Justice Thomas said he did not consider it worthwhile to travel to New Delhi just to draw up a panel from the list.

Besides the Prime Minister, the selection panel has the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist nominated by the President or any other member.

(With additional reporting by George Jacob in Kottayam)

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