The Narendra Modi government, which charged the erstwhile UPA government with framing rules for the Select Committee to choose the Lokpal against the letter and spirit of the law, has set in motion the process to `rectify’ the situation.
The Finance Minister and the Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley informed the House last week that the rules framed by the Manmohan Singh government for the Selection Committee were contrary to the Act with the ulterior motive of controlling the Lokpal.
“All these things, which had been done, are now to be undone and the spirit of that law, which this Parliament has enacted, has to be given full effect to, and I do not have any doubt that it will be given full effect to very soon,” he said.
According to officials in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) work has begun to effect changes in the rules on the mandate of the search committee which will be notified soon.
As per existing rules, an eight-member search committee is tasked with drawing up a panel of persons for consideration by the selection committee led by Prime Minister. These persons have to be chosen from among the panel provided by the DoPT, the rules say.
However, the government will now empower the search committee to include people from outside the list provided by DoPT for consideration by the committee, the sources said.
Besides, the DoPT has written to the Law Ministry to vet rules formed on filing of property returns by government employees under the Lokpal regime.
As per the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, every public servant shall make a declaration of his or her assets and liabilities.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act provides for the establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the States to enquire into corruption charges against public functionaries.
Outlining Narendra Modi government’s road map, President Pranab Mukherjee last week in his address to the Joint Session of Parliament said that the government “is committed to providing a clean and efficient administration focused on delivery. ”
Mr. Jaitley, when he was the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha raised strong objections to the “highly improper” procedure adopted by the UPA government in making key appointments to Lokpal.
He charged that the UPA government had in February this year hurriedly formed an eight-member search committee comprising Justice (retd) K.T. Thomas (as chairperson) and seven other members.
But Justice Thomas and jurist Fali Nariman had refused to be part of the search panel. His case was that the Department of Personnel has no role in framing the rules for the Selection Committee and that role belongs to the Selection Committee and Screening Committee.
“In the present case, neither of the two has any role in issuing the advertisement or inviting applications or short listing the applicants. This entire functioning has been usurped by the DoPT.”
Mr. Jaitley said he had written to the Prime Minister that the very idea of retiring or sitting judges of the highest court having to move applications for a post-retirement assignment is repugnant to the dignity of the office that they had held.