New Delhi: Taking a first step towards appointment of Lokpal, Government has decided to modify rules to give more powers to the search committee mandated to recommend names for appointment of chairperson and members of the anti-corruption body.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is making changes in the rules on the mandate of the search committee which will be notified soon, official sources said.
As per existing rules, an eight-member search committee is tasked to draw up a panel of persons for consideration by the selection committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal.
These persons have to be chosen from among the panel provided by the DoPT, the rules say.
However, the government will now empower the search committee to include people from outside the list provided by DoPT for consideration by the selection committee, the sources said.
There may be some other changes in the constitution of the search committee, they said.
Besides, the DoPT has written to Law Ministry to vet rules formed on filing of property returns by government employees under the Lokpal regime.
As per the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, every public servant shall make a declaration of his assets and liabilities.
A form for filing of such returns by a government officer has been designed and rules in this regard have been sent to the Law Ministry for its comments, the sources said.
The government has made it clear that Lokpal Act is important to curb corruption.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act provides for the establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries.
Outlining Narendra Modi government`s road map, President Pranab Mukherjee had on Monday said in his joint address to Parliament that the new dispensation "is committed to providing a clean and efficient administration focused on delivery. The institution of Lokpal is important to curb corruption and my government will endeavour to formulate rules in conformity with the Act."
Mukherjee had given his assent to Lokpal Act on January 1 this year.
The last UPA government could not go ahead with the much-touted appointment of Lokpal due to objection raised by the BJP in the selection procedure of the anti-corruption body.
Arun Jaitley, who was Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha before his party came to power at the Centre, had raised strong objections to the "highly improper" procedure adopted by the UPA government in making key appointments to Lokpal.
Jaitley had written twice to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh alleging that the procedure adopted by DoPT is violative of the Lokpal Act and an attempt to pack it with Congress loyalists.
The UPA government had in February this year hurriedly formed an eight-member search committee comprising Justice (retd) K T Thomas (as chairperson) and seven other members.
The members included Kaki Madhava Rao (former IAS officer), F S Nariman (legal luminary), Prof Meenakshi Gopinath (educationist), M L Kumawat (former Director General of Border Security Force), H K Dua (senior journalist and Rajya Sabha member), S Y Quraishi (former Chief Election Commissioner) and Prof Mrinal Miri (Rajya Sabha member).
But both Thomas and Nariman had refused to be part of the search panel.
The selection committee, led by Modi, has as its members the Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition in the Lower House, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist who could be nominated by the President or any other member.
Since Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan is yet to take a decision on the issue of Leader of Opposition in the lower house, the appointment of chairperson and members of Lokpal may take some more time.