Government has decided to go ahead with the appointments to various statutory bodies like CVC, NHRC and Lokpal without the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha as a member of the selection committee choosing them.
The move comes following a recent reference from the Lok Sabha secretariat in this regard, official sources said. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had written to the Lok Sabha seeking information on the LoP. The secretariat has informed the DoPT that there is no recognised LoP in the Lok Sabha, they said.
The Government will go ahead with the appointments to various statutory bodies without the LoP, the sources said. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had rejected Congress’ demand for LoP status for its nominee. Congress with 44 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha has emerged as the second largest party after BJP’s 282 but fell short by 11 to stake claim for the LoP for which it requires a strength of 55.
There is no mandatory requirement of the LoP in the selection committee that recommends persons for Central Vigilance Commissioner, Vigilance Commissioner, chairpersons and members for the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Lokpal, they said.
The appointment of a Central Vigilance Commissioner and Vigilance Commissioner is done by the President on the basis of recommendation from a three member selection committee headed by Prime Minister and comprising Minister for Home Affairs and the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People, as per the Central Vigilance Act 2003.
The Act further has a provision that when no such leader (LoP) has been recognised then the selection committee can include the leader of the single largest group in opposition in the Lok Sabha.
“No appointment of a Central Vigilance Commissioner or a Vigilance Commissioner shall be invalid merely by reason of any vacancy in the Committee,” the Act says. The chairperson and members of NHRC are to be appointed by the President following a recommendation by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister (as chairperson) and Lok Sabha Speaker, Minister-in-charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, as members, according to the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
“No appointment of a chairperson or a member shall be invalid merely by reason of any vacancy of any member in the Committee,” it says. Similarly, as per the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, “No appointment of a chairperson or a member shall be invalid merely by reason of any vacancy in the selection committee.”
The selection committee, led by the Prime Minister, has as its members the Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition in the Lower House, 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.
However, the Government is looking for ways to decide on the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission (CIC).
The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners are appointed by the President following a recommendation by a selection committee headed by Prime Minister and comprising the Leader of the Opposition and a Union Cabinet Minister (to be nominated by the Prime Minister) as members.
“For the purposes of removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that where the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People has not been recognised as such, the Leader of the single largest group in opposition of the Government in the House of the People shall be deemed to be the Leader of Opposition,” said the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Meanwhile, the Government has put on hold the appointment process of the new chief of CIC due to the absence of the LoP in the selection committee leaving the transparency watchdog headless for the first time since its inception in 2005. Chief Information Commissioner Rajiv Mathur had relinquished his charge on August 22.