The government is set to review and amend the rules for the selection process of the judges of the Supreme Court for positions in the Lokpal panel.
A day before the issue comes up for hearing in the apex court, The Indian Express has learnt from highly placed sources that even as the UPA-II had indicated that the appointment of India’s first Lokpal would be done by the new government, it is willing to change the rules of the game.
The rules, which are sought to be amended, pertain to the applications by the sitting judges of the apex court for the posts of chairman and the members of the Lokpal panel. Five judges of the Supreme Court, two of whom demitted their offices while their applications remained pending before the government, have applied for posts in the Lokpal panel.
The government, according to the sources, is going to change the manner in which the judges have to apply for the post of the Lokpal. As per the existing norm, a judge requires to send application for a position in the panel. The government is more particular about sitting judges applying for the Lokpal panel and seeks to bring in an entirely different set of criteria for their application.
The selection process relating to judges has already faced severe criticism. Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley had in January written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, expressing concern at the prospect of sitting and retired judges applying for a post.
“The very idea of sitting or retired judges of the highest court moving applications is repugnant to the dignity of the office that they have held. A job-seeking judge may not be the best person to be appointed as a member of the Lokpal,” Jaitley had said in his letter.
Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, who is leading the government in the SC against a PIL that has challenged the rules governing the appointment of the lokpal, is expected to inform a bench led by Chief Justice of India R M Lodha about the government’s move to amend the rules.
Further, under scathing criticism after former SC judge K T Thomas and jurist Fali S Nariman refused to be part of the Search Committee tasked with scrutinising applications and recommending names to the Selection Panel, the government also intends to change the contentious rules that apparently perturbed them.
They had highlighted the flaw in the process of the appointment of the anti-corruption watchdog, including the handicap of the Search Committee, which had to confine its scrutiny to the names shortlisted by the Department of Personnel and Training. According to the sources, more freedom may be in the offing for the Search Committee.
On April 24, Parasran had told the court that the government was not rushing with the appointment process but was confining itself only to “administrative” communications. He said the government was not convening any meeting between April 24 and 28 as proposed earlier by the Prime Minister to other members of the Lokpal Selection Committee.
Parasaran had added that the government will first need to reconstitute the Search Committee.