Close on the heels of one of the eminent jurists of the Country, Fali Nariman slamming the Lokpal selection process and refusing to become a part of the 8-member Lokpal Search Committee, Justice K.T. Thomas, who was chosen as the head of the Search Committee, has followed suit, and written to the Prime Minister's Office expressing his inability to take up the appointment as head of the Lokpal Search Committee. "I have decided to withdraw from the search committee after I studied the rules. The selection committee itself can find out the persons from the list of central government, what the search committee is expected to do and forward the list to the government," Justice K.T. Thomas said in his letter to the PMO.
It was on the 21st of February, according to news reports, that Fali Nariman had reportedly shot of a letter to the Minister of State for Prime Minister's Office (PMO), V. Narayanasamy, questioning the selection process of the Lokpal and its members. India Today had reported that, Fali Nariman, slamming the Lokpal selection process had wrote to Sri. V. Narayanasamy thus: "In my humble view, this is no way in which an institution as vital and as important as the Lokpal to be constituted. The chairperson and members of the Lokpal as ultimately selected may well be projected as democratically shosen by a broad consensus from amongst two levels of selectors (upper and lower), but it is precisely for that reason that I do fear that the most competent and the most courageous will get overlooked."
The selection process for choosing the Chairperson and members of the Lokpal is likely to be delayed in view of the above developments and also the as yet unresolved uncertainty surrounding the process to be followed to appoint a Lokpal. The controversy essentially revolves on the applicability of Rule 10 of the Lokpal Rules, and whether the same would be in violation of Section 4(4) of the Act.
The Selection Process to shortlist the candidates for appointment as Lokpal and its members had run into rough weather, when the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Arun Jaitley, had shot off a letter to the Prime Minister on the 20th of January, 2014, taking exception to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) issuing advertisements inviting applications for the post of the Chairperson of Lokpal and its members. Mr. Jaitley had termed the process set into motion by the Government 'illegal' since the provisions of the Lokpal law prescribed that the procedure of selection should be regulated by the selection committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha speaker, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India, or a judge of Supreme Court nominated by him and a jurist nominated by the President, and not by the Government. To Mr. Jaitley's letter, the Prime Minister had responded vide a letter dated 28th of January, 2014, defending the Government's move, by relying on Rule 10 of the Lokpal Rules, which have only recently been notified. The rule states that a search committee shall prepare a panel of people to be considered by the selection committee for appointment as the chairperson and members of the Lokpal's office from among the list provided by the central government through the DoPT. In response to the Prime Minister's letter, Mr. Arun Jaitley had replied vide a letter dated 30th January, 2014 stating that Section 4(5) has to be read harmoniously with Section 4(4) of the Act which states that 'the Selection Committee shall regulate its own procedure in a transparent manner for selecting the Chairperson and members of the Lokpal', and contending that whether the search committee should select people on the basis of advertisement issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) or it should invite the best available from within the system is a question of procedure for selection which can only be decided by the Selection Committee, which had 'neither been fully constituted nor met till date'. Mr. Jaitley had concluded his letter by asking the Government to reconsider its position in this regard.
The real issue, which Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Arun Jaitley has correctly alluded to, in his letter to the Prime Minister on the 30th of January, boils down to whether to limit the field of choice for appointment to the post of Chairperson and its members, solely to the applicants who have responded to advertisements issued by the DoPT or to allow the Search Committee to look beyond the applicants and if necessary, shortlist eligible persons to the exclusion of, or in addition to, the ones chosen from among the applicants.
Read the Withdrawal Letter here