Centre agrees in SC to re-examine Lokpal selection rules
New Delhi: The Centre on Monday agreed in the Supreme Court to re-examine the contentious issues on selection of Lokpal and said it was was ready to make final amendments in the rules before proceeding with the process.
"With regard to rule 10 clause (1) and 10 clause (4), Solicitor General (Mohan Parasaran) submits to re-examine the issue and make final amendments in the rules and then proceed further with the matter," a bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha said in the order.
The bench, also comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, passed the order after taking the consent of the Solicitor General that it was taking on record his statement that "the selection process shall not commence on existing rules".
During the hearing, the bench observed that the matter like this, if stalled, will not be good. It also said that the government will have have to evolve procedure which is "transparent" and that the rules have to be in consonance with the statutory provisions.
The bench noted that four months have already passed since the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act was passed in December 2013 and nothing has been done.
The Solicitor General assured the court that the government will amend the procedure and start the process of selection.
The bench also wanted to know from the Centre "how will you achieve the objective of transparency that is the question".
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, submitted that government cannot proceed on the basis of rule 10 clause (1) and 10 clause (4).
Rule 10 (1) provides that the Search Committee shall prepare a panel of persons to be considered by the Selection Committee for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, from among the list of persons provided by the central government, which, it has been argued, "directly runs counter to the very object of having an independent Lokpal and the provisions of the said Act".
Bhushan submitted that the names of persons shortlisted by the search committee be brought into public domain through the website a week before the selection.
This is the basic minimum transparency which is required, he said.
The bench also agreed that "they (government) have to evolve procedure which is transparent" and also concurred with the submission of Bhushan, before posting the matter for July 4.
The Centre had earlier informed the apex court that it will not take any immediate decision on the appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, virtually indicating that the decision in this regard might be left to the new government after the general elections.
The Solicitor General had earlier told the bench that the government was not planning to take any decision on the appointment of Lokpal after which the apex court posted the case for today.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by NGO Common Cause seeking a stay on the entire selection process of appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, saying the government was going ahead with it despite the apex court being seized of the issue.
"It is submitted that the latest move by the government to proceed with the appointment of the chairperson and members of the Lokpal, even while this court is seized of the issue of the validity of the rules framed under the Lokpal Act, is not only highly improper but also illegal and arbitrary," the application had said.
The NGO had filed the fresh plea following apex court`s oral observation during an earlier hearing in which the bench had said if it comes across any such development by the government so far as the selection of the Lokpal and its members was concerned, it would be at liberty to approach this court for interim directions.
The NGO`s plea had sought to declare "illegal" the rules under which selections are being done.
The NGO had filed the fresh plea in the matter pending before the apex court in which it had questioned the entire selection process for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal.
On April 1, the bench had sought response from the Centre asking it to justify within four weeks the Search Committee (Constitution, Terms and Conditions of appointment of members and manner of selection of panel of names for appointment of Chairperson and Members of Lokpal) Rules, 2014, framed under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act.
The PIL has sought a declaration that certain provisions of the rules are ultra vires of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act and also sought quashing of the entire selection process initiated under the rules alleging that it is "illegal, arbitrary" and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
It has said that the government is going ahead with the selection process despite there being serious flaws in the rules under which selections are being done.
"Justice K T Thomas and Fali Nariman, who were offered the post of the chairman and member of the Search Committee respectively, have already declined to accept the offers on these very grounds," the petition has said.
"Therefore, if the selection process of the Lokpal is not stayed during the pendency of the present writ petition, it would be rendered infructuous and public interest would suffer," it has said.
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