Lokpal search panel gets freedom of choice

Updated - November 28, 2021 09:05 pm IST

Published - September 03, 2014 08:07 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Department of Personnel and Training has notified amendments giving autonomy to the Lokpal search committee to shortlist and recommend names independently for selection of Chairman and members of the anti-corruption body.

The amendments act as a course correction after the former Supreme Court judge Justice K.T. Thomas >opted out from heading the search committee in March 2014, citing lack of autonomy.

Eminent jurist Fali Nariman too had turned down the post of a member of the panel for that reason.

Justice Thomas had objected to the provision that the search committee should only shortlist candidates from a list provided by the department.

The amendment made in Rule 10 of the Search Committee Rules removed this roadblock by omitting the words “from among the list of persons provided by the Central Government in the Department of Personnel and Training.”

This has come after a Supreme Court Bench, led by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha, criticised the government for delaying the process of appointing a Lokpal.

“The amendments usher in the proper democratic process for the Lokpal and it ensures that the appointment process is not loaded in favour of the government in power,” Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi told The Hindu on Wednesday.

He said the amended process, giving the Search Committee full autonomy, was “more dignified.”

The amendments have been brought about on the recommendations of a three-member committee headed by Mr. Rohatgi.

Thomas’ view

The former Supreme Court judge Justice K.T. Thomas, who resigned as Chairman of the committee citing lack of freedom, told The Hindu that the amendments were a “progressive departure” and a “step in the right direction” from the earlier version. But he said the amendments still only addressed half the concerns raised by him. He said though the Search Committee was free to shortlist names for Lokpal, its recommendations could still be vetoed by the Selection Committee.

He was referring to a proviso to Section 4 (3) of the Lokpal Act, allowing the Selection Committee to “consider any person other than the persons recommended by the Search Committee.” He said a statutory amendment was required to “correct” this.

“The Search Committee needs to have some value. The committee searches out and recommends names, but these names can be vetoed by the Selection Committee. If this proviso continues, the Search Committee continues to be a mute spectator,” Justice Thomas said.

He said the law should prescribe the Selection Committee to put on record the reason for vetoing names suggested by the Search Committee.

“The Supreme Court judgment in the appointment of P.J. Thomas as Chief Vigilance Commissioner declares that if the high-level committee led by the PM overrules an objection of Leader of Opposition to a particular candidate, the reasons for doing so should be put on record. The same principle should apply here too,” Justice Thomas said.

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