The decision of eminent jurist Fali Nariman and Justice (retd) K.T. Thomas to call the government’s bluff by staying away from the search committee to prepare a shortlist for selecting the Lokpal has been hailed by legal luminaries.
“As a member of the search committee they feel their presence is nominal and will not result in the selection of right person because their choice is limited to the names suggested by the government,” eminent jurist and former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee said. “I welcome their decision and compliment Justice K.T. Thomas and Fali Nariman.
Their appointment, if they had accepted it, would have compromised their stature and respect in society,” well-known lawyer Kamini Jaiswal said. Questioning the government’s bona fides, Jaiswal said: “This is not a bona fide exercise and will mislead the citizens of the country into believing that it is intended to wipe out corruption,” adding that the entire exercise is “sham” as it “negates the very concept of a search committee.
“The search committee should have a wide spectrum to choose from”. The selection process has been “negated by the government itself by giving the names”, she added. She also slammed the government for what she termed a politically-inspired exercise.
“This whole exercise for implementing the Lokpal is politically motivated and seriously compromises the independence of the judiciary and will in no way work towards the objective for which the anti-corruption law has been enacted,” she said.
“Further, why are they asking people to apply? What does this mean? Asking people of dignity and stature to apply means giving certificate to themselves,” Jaiswal said. Both Nariman and Thomas “are the doyens of India’s legal system and the judiciary. If such eminent people don’t have faith in the system being followed by the government, then something must be seriously flawed,” said senior counsel and former additional solicitor general (ASG) Bishwajit Bhattacharyya.
A former attorney general of the mid-1990s, who did not wish to be quoted, said: “There is nothing wrong in inviting applications. Recently (July 2013) applications were invited for appointing the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. But it was done discreetly not like here, when an advertisement was issued to make a panel.” The first law officer of India in mid-nineties says, “When they have a panel of apex court judges before them what is left for the search committee to do?
Think of a search committee scrutinizing the names from amongst the four sitting judges.”. A noted lawyer on the criminal side and a former ASG, who also did not want to go on record, was opposed to retired judges and octogenarian lawyers on the selection panel. “It (Selection Committee) should have younger people. In the US, the average age of judges is in the 40s. In India, unless a person is 80-years-old and limping, he is not considered to be wise and fit to take decisions,” he said.
“See what is happening in the tribunals. They are packed with retired judges who come to work for half an hour. This is because they have nothing to prove or have the incentive to work hard, while younger members are really working and delivering on the tasks assigned to them,” he added.