The Centre has declined to divulge details of persons who have applied for the posts of chairperson and members of anti-corruption body Lokpal, saying these are “personal” in nature and cannot be disclosed.
Replying to an RTI query, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) also declined to furnish copies of communication, sent to and received from individuals, accepting or rejecting the government’s offer to become members of the Lokpal Search Committee, saying the file “is not readily available”.
The DoPT said that the selection process for appointment of the chairperson and members of the Lokpal is under consideration of the competent authorities, as per the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act.
“The name of persons, their references/letters etc. can’t be disclosed as the information sought is exempted under Section 8(1)(J) of the RTI Act, 2005,” it said in reply to a question asking details about persons who have applied to be chairperson and members of the Lokpal.
The section exempts publication of information which relates to personal information and the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual.
The government, however, gave names of eight persons chosen for appointment as chairperson or members of the Search Committee during a meeting held in February 21 this year.
Those selected then included Justice (retd) K T Thomas (Chairperson) and seven members — Kaki Madhava Rao (former IAS officer), F S Nariman (legal luminary), Prof Meenakshi Gopinath (educationist), M L Kumawat (former Director General of Border Security Force), H K Dua (senior journalist and Rajya Sabha member), S Y Quraishi (former Chief Election Commissioner) and Prof Mrinal Miri (Rajya Sabha member).
In a setback to the UPA government, Thomas and Nariman subsequently refused to be part of the search panel.
The government did not provide copies of letters or communication sent to or received from individuals accepting or rejecting its offer to be on the Lokpal Search Committee.
“It is stated that concerned file is under submission and is not readily available. Copy of the relevant papers will be furnished to you as soon as the file becomes available,” the DoPT said in reply to the RTI query.
As per rules, the Prime Minister-led Selection Committee for Lokpal shall constitute a Search Committee consisting of seven members and a chairperson.
The Search Committee is mandated to prepare a panel of persons to be considered by the Selection Committee for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal.
The Selection Committee has as members the Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist who could be nominated by the President or any other member.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act provides for establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries. The Centre had already got nominations from various individuals for becoming its chairperson and members.
The main opposition BJP had objected to the government’s move to constitute Lokpal and demanded that such a decision should be put on hold.
A Public Interest Litigating (PIL) was also filed in the Supreme Court, seeking a stay on the entire selection process of appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal.
Putting to rest the controversy, the government informed the apex court last week that it will not take any immediate decision on the appointment of chairperson and members of the anti-corruption body.