New Delhi, March 31: The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to respond to a public interest petition that sought a stay on the Lokpal Act saying the entire process of selecting the chairperson and members of the anti-graft body was unconstitutional.
The petitioner, an NGO, also submitted that several judges of the top court were reported to have expressed their willingness to be considered for judicial members on the panel, which could “seriously compromise” the independence of the judiciary.
Justices R.M. Lodha and Kurien Joseph issued notice to the Centre and sought a response within four weeks. Solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran accepted the notice on the government’s behalf.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the NGO Common Cause, sought a stay on the act but the bench refused. But it told the government that some of the act’s provisions were subject to judicial scrutiny, as they appeared to preclude certain persons from the post of secretary to the Lokpal.
“There may be persons who had been handling anti-corruption matters for 25 years, but you seem to have excluded such persons,” the bench said, citing the example of “somebody working in the CBI”.
But “your bill says that the person to become a secretary of the Lokpal must be a secretary-level official”, Justice Lodha, who was heading the bench, said. “By such rules, you are excluding certain persons from the post.”
According to Section 10 of the Lokpal Act, the secretary has to be someone “in the rank of the secretary to (the) Government of India”.
The PIL questioned the entire process of selecting the Lokpal’s members, saying it was “illegal” and “arbitrary”.