Lokpal search panel formed, it will frame its own rules of functioning, govt tells SC

The government informed the Supreme Court on Friday that a eight-member search committee has been constituted in September 2018 for zeroing in on eligible candidates for Lokpal and the anti-corruption authority will frame its own rules of functioning. The panel is led by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai.

On September 27, the Department of Personnel and Training issued a notification listing the names of the committee members. They are, retired Allahabad High Court judge Justice S.R. Singh Yadav, former Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, former State Bank of India chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya, IAS officer Dr. Lalit K. Panwar, former IPS officer S.S. Khandwawala, Prasar Bharati chairperson A. Surya Prakash, former ISRO chairman Dr. A.S. Kiran Kumar.

A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, ordered Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to file an affidavit detailing the steps taken so far in the search for Lokpal.

"We request the Attorney General to ensure the steps taken till today is brought on record," Chief Justice Gogoi observed in the order.

When Mr. Venugopal offered to pass on to the court a "note" detailing the steps taken, Chief Justice Gogoi insisted that the Centre should filed a sworn affidavit.

The court then posted the case for further hearing to January 17.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, for petitioner NGO Common Cause, submitted that Section 4 of the Lokpal Act mandated the government to be transparent about the search and appointment process.

'Names not put on website'

"They have not put the names of those in the search committee on the website. They have not put the minutes of the meeting on the website," Mr. Bhushan said.

However, the government side countered that the names were already published on the government website.

On July 24 last, the Supreme Court said the government's stand on completing the appointment of a Lokpal, an ombudsman to protect the common man from corruption in public service and power centres, was "wholly unsatisfactory".

The court was reacting to an affidavit filed by the government, of which the stated aim was to specify the exact timeframe by which it would appoint the Lokpal. Instead, the government had said the appointment was a "complicated" process.

The eight-page affidavit said the Selection Committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met on July 19 on the choice of a Search Committee for Lokpal. Search Committee would prepare a panel of names for Lokpal.

On July 19, Selection panel had discussed that the Search Committee would comprise persons from expertise as diverse as anti-corruption policy, public administration, insurance, banking, law and management, etc. Besides 50% of them should be drawn from SC/ST category, OBC, Minorities and women. The Selection panel decided to discuss this further the next time they meet at a convenient time.

Contempt plea against govt

The NGO had filed a contempt petition against the government for not appointing Lokpal despite an April 2017 judgment by the Supreme Court, said the court should now take over and appoint the Lokpal.

The court has for the past several months been constantly urging the government to complete the Lokpal appointment.

Though passed in 2014, the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 was not implemented all these years because there was no Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the 16th Lok Sabha. The 2013 statute includes the LoP as a member of the selection committee. The Act intends the LoP to be the part of the selection committee of the PM, the CJI and the Speaker, which has to first appoint an eminent jurist among their ranks.

However, on April 27 last year, the Supreme Court, in a judgment, clarified that the Lokpal appointment process need not be stalled merely due to the absence of the LoP.

The judgment had dismissed the government's reasoning that the Lokpal appointment process should wait till the 2013 Act was amended to replace the LoP with the single largest opposition party leader.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 5:30:03 AM |

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