NEW DELHI, 6 May 2014, (Economictimes): The government on Monday told the Supreme Court that the Lok Pal appointment process would commence only after the rules were reviewed and brought in line with the Act, to permit the search committee to look at candidates other than that suggested by the government, but stopped short of committing itself to placing the names of potential candidates in public domain in the interest of transparency.
“We haven’t reached that stage yet. The rules have to re-examined to bring it in line with the Act. The search committee will have to be reconstituted,” Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran told a bench presided over by CJI R.M. Lodha.
The bench, comprising among others by Justices Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph, is hearing a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause challenging the 2014 rules which made it mandatory for all those interested in the posts to apply formally for it and restricting the search committee’s powers to look for a candidate to a list provided by the DoPT to the select committee.
Parasaran handed over a note by V. Narayanasamy, Minister of State Prime Minister’s Office, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, stating that the issue had been re-examined by the government.
“It is felt that it may be possible that many eminent persons, including judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, may have reservations in submitting their applications to DoPT, particularly having regard to the pre-eminence of the positions held by them,” the note said.
“Some of the best suitable persons belonging to these categories may thus be left out of the consideration of the search committee. Having regard to the need to ensure that the best talents available in the relevant fields are duly considered by the search committee, the government feels that the search committee should be empowered to consider such eminent persons on its own i.e.
Accordingly, the government is considering a proposal to amend the Search Committee (Constitution, Terms and Conditions of Appointment of Members and the Manner of Selection of Panel of Names for Appointment of Chairperson and Members of Lok Pal) rules, 2014, suitably so as to empower the search committee to consider any person other than the persons included in the list provided by the central government under Rule 10(1) of the rules, it said.
This would enable the search committee to identify eminent persons in different fields, including judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts to man the posts of chairperson/members of the Lok Pal, it said. Parasaran read out from this statement to seek more time from the court to wrap up the process.
He, however, shot down a suggestion by NGO lawyer and AAP leader Prashant Bhushan to place the names of potential candidates in public domain at least a fortnight before the names were finalized, to permit the public to file their objections to their appointment.
“My friend wants a public hearing on this,” he charged. “He can’t seek an injunction at this stage. If he still has a problem with the amended rules, he can seek to have them quashed,” Parasaran said, insisting that the search committee be left to deal with the mandate of transparency in the Act.
“The selection procedure will proceed after the change in the rules,” he said. This prompted Bhushan, who offered to drop his PIL if the government committed to such a course of action, to urge the court to list the case in July.
Justice Lodha prima facie shared Bhushan’s concerns that the process had to be transparent, saying: “If it’s a non-transparent procedure, an opaque procedure, the consequences would follow.”
“Your suggestion is good; you want a particular mode of transparency, but the government is insisting that this should be left to the committee,” Justice Lodha observed. “May be, it is because of a lack of a committee (which has to frame the procedure),” he said.
Justice Lodha commented adversely over the fact that though the Act had been passed in December, nothing had been done on its so far, and adjourned the hearing till July.