In the final push by the UPA-II government for appointment of India’s first Lokpal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is exploring the possibility of a meeting of the Selection Committee between April 24 and 28.
It is learnt by The Indian Express that the Prime Minister has got in touch with the other members of the Selection Committee to consider having a meeting on any day between April 24 and 27 to make appointments of the Lokpal and its members.
The Selection Committee comprises the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a judge nominated by him, and an eminent jurist. The present CJI, Justice P Sathasivam, has nominated Justice H L Dattu as a member of the Selection Committee.
The itinerary proposed by the PMO for convening the meeting comes close on the heels of retirement of Justice Sathasivam, scheduled on April 26. The President of India has issued a notification appointing Justice R M Lodha as the next CJI with effect from April 27. It is also understood that four sitting judges of the Supreme Court have also applied for the post of Lokpal.
The proposal by the PMO has come even as the Search Committee, which was to scout for India’s first anti-corruption ombudsman, has already disintegrated after its proposed chairman Justice K T Thomas and member Fali S Nariman refused to come onboard.
Under the Lokpal Act, the Search Committee has to receive a list of candidates put together by the DoPT and then shortlist names and to place them before the selection panel headed by the Prime Minister. The selection panel may or may not pick names suggested by the Search Committee.
Therefore, if the proposed meeting takes place, the Selection Committee will have to pick Lokpal and its members from the list supplied by the DoPT, without any scrutiny by the search panel.
The hurried attempt by the government to have the Lokpal is sure to raise eyebrows since the country is already in the midst of the Lok Sabha polls and the Search Committee too is not in place.
Former Supreme Court judge Thomas had rejected the government offer to chair the committee saying the panel will not be able to conduct an “independent search” since it was mandated to pick names only from a list drawn by the government. The impugned rule under the Lokpal Act has also come under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court and a bench led by none other than Justice Lodha had recently issued notices to the government.