Indicating that the appointment of India’s first Lokpal would be done by the new government, the Centre told the Supreme Court Thursday that it was not rushing with the appointment process but was confining itself only to “administrative” communications.
Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran told a bench led by Justice R M Lodha that 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.
“Nothing has happened…nothing is happening. The meeting is not going to take place now,” Parasaran told the bench.
He also informed the court that the government will first need to reconstitute the search committee, which has to shortlist the candidate for appointment. “The search committee has not been reconstituted yet,” he added. The committee had disintegrated after former SC judge K T Thomas and jurist Fali S Nariman refused to come on board.
As counsel for PIL petitioner Prashant Bhushan referred to the letter written by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to members of the selection committee, Parasaran conceded that it was only an administrative step and nothing more was being done.
The bench dispensed with officially recording the SG’s statement after noting that the letter was sent perhaps “to keep things alive” and send out a message that the process had not gone dormant. The court will now hear the matter on May 5.
The court was hearing a plea to stall the final push by the UPA government to appoint the Lokpal until the SC ruled on the validity of the provisions for selection.
As The Indian Express had first reported, the PM had on April 11 written to all members of the selection committee, proposing a meting between April 24 and 28 to appoint the Lokpal and its members.
Asserting the need to appoint the chairperson and members of the Lokpal “as early as possible”, Singh had said the meeting was “essential”.
Subsequently, NGO Common Cause, on whose PIL the SC had last month asked the Centre to justify its rules on appointment of Lokpal, filed an application in the court to direct the government to put the entire selection process in abeyance.
The plea called the government’s move as “illegal and arbitrary,” adding it was going ahead with the selection process in spite of serious flaws in the rules of selection, which are under challenge.
The application said the haste with which the selection process was being rushed through by the Centre during elections “indicates a malafide intent to subvert the process of law and appoint pliable and undeserving persons to the crucial institution of the Lokpal”.