A Right to Information (RTI) application concerning the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 has revealed glaring inaction on the part of the Central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As per the information revealed on an application filed by one Ms. Anjali Bhardwaj, the Selection Committee, under the chairmanship of PM Modi met for the first time only in March, 2018. This was more than 45 months after the BJP came to power.
As per the response received, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held two meetings of the Lokpal Selection Committee in February, 2014, after the Lokpal Bill was passed. The next meeting under PM Modi was held only on March 1 this year, four years after the last meeting.
Six meetings of the selection committee have been held since then. It also revealed that no meeting of the search committee has been held till date.
The response further denies disclosure of the minutes of meetings of the Selection Committee. Without citing any provision under the Right to Information Act, 2005, it says,
“As regards the minutes of the meetings it is submitted that the authorship of such documents which include 3-5 high level dignitaries does not vest in the Department of Personnel & Training and same have been shared as secret documents. Thus copies of the said documents cannot be provided by the undersigned CPIO.”
The Supreme Court had, on July 17, directed the Centre to expeditiously shortlist names for appointment as Lokpal after the Attorney General (AG) submitted that the selection committee headed by Prime Minister will be meeting on July 19.
“Let’s begin on an optimistic note. We do not wish to issue a mandamus. We hope that the selection and search committee will expeditiously finalise the names. Let a report be filed next Monday. We shall take up the matter on Tuesday…
…Since selection committee is meeting on July 19 we refrain to make any further comments at this moment,” Justice Ranjan Gogoi had said.
The bench had also said that the selection committee will have to constitute a search committee, which has to then lay down the norms and criteria for appointments. However, at this moment, the AG had expressed reservations about the selection committee being able to complete the deliberations in one sitting on July 19, saying, “we cannot rush through”.
However, on July 24, it had rejected as “unsatisfactory” the affidavit filed by the Centre in the matter after the selection committee meeting on July 19.
“Having perused the affidavit all that we are inclined to say is that we are wholly unsatisfied and do not accept it.Let a fresh affidavit be filed within four weeks,” the Bench comprising Justices Gogoi, R. Banumathi and Navin Sinha had said.
The Bench was essentially miffed about neither the time frame being fixed nor the search committee being appointed.
The Search Committee for recommending names for Lokpal was then finally constituted in September this year, under the chairmanship of former Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai.
The Committee also includes as members Justice Sakha Ram Singh Yadav, Mr. Ranjit Kumar, Ms. Arundhati Bhattacharya, Dr. Lalit K. Panwar, Mr. Shabbirhusein S. Khandwawala, Mr. A. Surya Prakash and Dr. AS Kiran Kumar.