In a major embarrassment for the government, Fali S Nariman has declined to be part of the process to select India’s first Lokpal. The eminent jurist has informed the Prime Minister’s Office that the selection process was such that the “most competent” and “most independent” would get overlooked.
It is understood that Nariman was asked, on February 21, to be on the search committee. He responded on Thursday, writing to the PMO, “I decline the honour. In my humble view this is no way in which an institution as vital and as important as the Lokpal is to be constituted.”
He added: “The chairperson and members of the Lokpal as ultimately selected may well be projected as democratically chosen by a broad consensus from amongst two levels of selectors (upper and lower), but it is precisely for that reason that I do fear that the most competent, the most independent, and the most courageous will get overlooked.”
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When contacted, Nariman refused to comment. “I don’t have any statement to make. I have explained everything in the letter,” he said.
Nariman’s refusal to join the Lokpal search committee is the latest controversy over appointing the anti-corruption ombudsman. Earlier this month, the BJP opposed the Prime Minister’s choice of Supreme Court lawyer P P Rao for the committee. Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj described Rao as a “Congress loyalist”, and took the matter to the President. The BJP had earlier questioned the manner in which applications were invited for the posts of chairperson and members of the Lokpal.
Following Nariman’s letter, the government defended the process to form the search committee, and said it was up to the veteran lawyer to accept or decline the job.
“I would like to make it very clear. Transparent method has been followed. The process was followed very properly… Fali Nariman was one among the jurists who have been considered… It is for the person concerned either to accept or not to accept,” Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy said.
The minister declined to comment on the points raised by Nariman. “Without going through his letter I cannot make any comment on that,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)