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Lokpal shortlist ready, government tells top court

A search committee has shortlisted three panels of names for appointing the country’s first Lokpal
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi

Our Legal Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 07.03.19, 08:31 PM

The government on Thursday told the Supreme Court a “search committee” headed by a former judge of the top court had shortlisted three panels of names for appointing the country’s first Lokpal and other members of the anti-corruption body.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna recorded attorney-general K.K. Venugopal’s submission and requested him to inform the court within 10 days when the Prime Minister-headed selection committee would meet to finalise the names shortlisted by the search panel.


The bench turned down advocate Prashant Bhushan’s plea to put in the public domain the names that the search committee — headed by former judge Ranjana Prakash Desai — has shortlisted.

“We are informed by the learned attorney-general for India that the chairperson of the search committee by a communication dated 28.2.2019 has informed that they have forwarded three panels of names to be considered by the selection committee for appointment of the chairperson, judicial member(s) and non-judicial member(s). The deliberations of the search committee, therefore, are complete…,” the court said.

“At this stage, the order which we consider appropriate to pass is to request the learned attorney-general to inform the court within 10 days from today about the possible date of convening a meeting of the selection committee for finalisation of the names for constitution of the Lokpal.

“So far as the prayer of Mr Bhushan, learned counsel, for putting the names recommended by the search committee in the public domain is concerned… it is our considered view that no direction from the court should be issued in this regard.”

Bhushan, who appeared for the NGO Common Cause, had contended that if the shortlists for the Lokpal and judicial and non-judicial members of the anti-graft body were in the public domain, other stakeholders would get a chance to give suggestions or object to any of the names.

But Justice Gogoi said any decision on making the names public would be taken by the selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the leader of the largest Opposition party and an eminent jurist nominated by the President, former attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi in this case.

The matter, the court said, should rather be left for a “just determination by the selection committee” as and when the meeting of the committee is convened. “List the matter after ten days.”

The court was dealing with a petition Common Cause had filed seeking contempt proceedings against the secretary in the department of personnel and training, the appointing authority for the Lokpal.

The NGO had filed the plea saying the Lokpal law had come into force in 2014 but the government had till date made no appointment.

Section 4 of the Lokpal Act provides for a chairperson and a maximum of eight other members, half of them judicial members, to be appointed by the President on the recommendations of the selection committee.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act had been notified in January 2014. But the Narendra Modi government had refused to constitute the body on the ground that there was no leader of Opposition in the current Lok Sabha, although Section 4 (2) of the Lokpal act makes it clear that the appointment of the chairperson or a member would not become invalid merely because of any vacancy in the selection committee.

Common Cause and another NGO — Youth For Equality — had moved the top court for a directive to the government to put the Lokpal in place.

The government had later decided to amend the rules to include the leader of the single largest Opposition party if there was no leader of Opposition in the House.

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