SC shows dissatisfaction over Centre’s response on Lokpal matter

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today expressed dissatisfaction over the Centre’s response on appointment of search committee members for a Lokpal.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, R Banumathi and Navin Sinha asked the Centre to file a fresh affidavit giving relevant details of the search committee.
During the hearing, Attorney General K K Venugopal submitted an affidavit and said a meeting of the selection committee was held but the names for the search committee were not finalised.

He said another meeting would be held soon for appointing members of the search committee, keeping in mind the provisions of law for such appointments.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO Common Cause, said the Centre has not specified the date of the next meeting and they are actually delaying the appointment of a Lokpal despite passage of a law nearly five years ago.
He said contempt action should be initiated against the concerned authorities or the court may proceed ahead for appointing the Lokpal by exercising its power under Article 142 of the Constitution (enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court).

The bench, in its order, said it’s unsatisfied with the Centre’s reply and sought a fresh affidavit in four weeks giving all necessary details.
The Centre had earlier told the apex court the Lokpal selection committee, headed by the prime minister, was scheduled to meet to set up a search panel for recommending a panel of names for the appointment of the anti-graft ombudsman and its members.
The government had said the search panel would lay down its procedures, following which the selection committee would fix the time frame within which the names for selecting the chairman and members of the Lokpal would be recommended.
The committee comprises the prime minister, the chief justice of India, Lok Sabha speaker, the leader of the largest opposition party and an eminent jurist.
The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by the NGO which has raised the issue of non-appointment of Lokpal despite the apex court’s judgement of April 27 last year.

The apex court, in its last year’s verdict, had said there was no justification to keep the enforcement of Lokpal Act suspended till the proposed amendments, including on the issue of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, were cleared by Parliament.

Centre tells Supreme Court: Process to appoint eminent jurist to select Lokpal underway

The Centre today told the Supreme Court that the process to fill up the vacancy of an eminent jurist in the selection committee for appointing Lokpal was going on.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi that recommendation for induction of an eminent jurist in the panel has been made and the process was underway.

The bench said that it doesn’t consider necessary to pass any order at this stage but said it expects that the process of appointment of Lokpal will be made at the earliest.

The bench has listed the matter for further hearing on May 15.

Senior advocate P P Rao was earlier appointed as an eminent jurist in the committee but the post became vacant after he passed away last year.

The bench was hearing a contempt petition filed by NGO Common Cause, which has raised the issue of non-appointment of Lokpal despite the spreme court’s verdict of April 27 last year.

The apex court, in its last year’s verdict, said there was no justification to keep the enforcement of Lokpal Act suspended till the proposed amendments, including on the issue of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, were cleared by Parliament.

It had said the Act was an eminently workable piece of legislation and “does not create any bar to the enforcement of provisions”.

The top court also said that the amendments proposed to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, and the views of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, were attempts to streamline the working of the Act and does not constitute legal hindrances or bar its enforcement.

Supreme Court agrees to interpret LoP provision for Lokpal

lokpalThe Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to decide by September 9 on the status of Leader of Opposition (to represent the Lokpal Selection committee) and made it clear that the Lokpal legislation could not be put into cold storage.

A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton Nariman told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that the law could not be rendered ineffective due to the delay in taking decision by the government. The Bench was hearing a writ petition filed by NGO `Common Cause’ challenging the provisions of Lokpal Act and its Rules.

Even as the AG submitted that the Centre was reviewing the entire Lokpal Act and the Rules, the CJI said “the court will interpret the term `Leader of Opposition’ under the Lokpal Rules on next date of hearing since the Lokpal selection panel envisaged LoP as one of the five members. If the government fails to resolve Lop issue, the court may give a larger interpretation to the term LoP so that it may include leader of the largest party or leader of the larger group.”

Time and again the CJI has been stressing the importance of striking a balance in separation of powers among the various organs of the Judiciary, Executive and the Legislature. The CJI’s observations on Friday on the role and status of LoP assume significance in this context.

The CJI wondered whether any selection could be fair without the leader of opposition in the Lokpal selection panel. He said “We are not waiting for any amendment or any session of the Parliament. We will interpret it if the government does not do it by the next date of hearing. The Act cannot be kept in cold storage if problems have emerged.”

Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner faulted the government for relying on the Mavlankar rule framed in 1950. He said “why such a rule should prevail now. If the LoP is not there, the leader of the single largest party can be considered.”

The CJI said “LoP holds a significant position in House of People. LoP is a voice representing views contrary to government. The very position of selection committee will create legal problems in the absence of LoP. The Parliament may not have envisaged such a situation but it now needs to be interpreted so that the process is fast-tracked. The issue needs objective consideration in view of current political situation. The issue of LoP is relevant not only in Lokpal law but also in other existing legislations and it cannot be prolonged.” The CJI said efforts should be made to expedite the Lokpal selection process and posted the matter for further hearing on September 9.

(Source: PTI)

Search procedure for Lokpal a sham: Legal luminaries

lokpalThe 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.

(Source: IANS)

Nariman declines to be part of Lokpal search panel

narimanEminent jurist Fali Nariman has refused to be part of the process to select the names for various posts of Lokpal, saying he fears that the multi- layered procedure could overlook the most competent, independent and courageous persons.

In a letter to V Narayanasamy, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, Nariman said he declines the “honour” to be part of the committee.

“In my humble view, this is no way in which an institution as vital and as important as the Lokpal is to be constituted.

“The chairperson and members of the Lokpal as ultimately selected may well be projected as democratically chosen by a broad consensus from amongst two levels of selectors (upper and lower), but it is precisely for that reason that I do fear that the most competent the most independent and the most courageous will get overlooked,” he wrote.

Reacting to Nariman’s refusal, the Centre said all procedures had been followed for forming a search committee to recommend a panel of names for selection of chairperson and members of the anti-graft body.

“I would like to make it very clear. Transparent method has been followed. The process was followed very properly. As far as the selection of members of the search committee is concerned, Fali Nariman was one among the jurists who have been considered … It is for the person concerned either to accept or not to accept,” Narayanasamy said.

“Without going through his letter I cannot make any comment on that,” the minister said, adding that Nariman’s name was considered on the basis of other members’ suggestion.

“It is not the question of consulting him because the panel that had been prepared some names were there and thereafter we thought he (Nariman) would be able to serve the committee. Therefore his name was considered…,” he said.

“That does not mean that the procedure has not been followed. We cannot make any issue out of it. Out of eight members, some have given their consent. The communication (consent) has been received by our department. We will go for the next process,” he said.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 provides for the establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries. The Centre had already got nominations from various individuals for becoming its chairperson and members.

Government had offered him to be a part of the search committee on February 21.

His name was proposed by a five-member selection committee to be a part of the eight member search committee under the Lokpal Act.

The search committee will scrutinize the applications received for the post of chairperson and eight members (four judicial and four non-judicial) and forward the names to the selection committee.

The selection committee comprises Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Supreme Court judge HL Dattu — a nominee of the Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and jurist P P Rao.

Swaraj was outvoted on the choice of Rao, whom she had described as a “Congress loyalist”.

She is believed to have recommended the names of Nariman and senior lawyer Harish Salve for the selection committee.

(Source: IANS)

Seize property of the corrupt, says Bhushan

supreme courtSupreme Court advocate and AAP leader Prashant Bhushan favours seizing money earned dishonestly by corrupt officials and confiscation of their property. He also wants a rigorous process to select Lokpal members and to ensure the financial independence of investigative agencies to combat corruption.
Bhushan was addressing a training programme for IAS officers and other senior government officers here late Thursday, said a press release from the organisers Friday. The programme was organised by the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy and Jindal Institute of Leadership Development.
Bhushan also called for clear laws and rules to prohibit officers to join companies whose files they had earlier dealt with. A confidant of AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, Bhushan suggested that videography of court proceedings would have a huge impact on the way the courts, judges and lawyers function.
He asserted that investigative agencies should not be controlled by the very people they were meant to investigate and called for a truly independent corruption investigative machinery. Referring to the provisions of Jan Lokpal Bill, he pointed out that it seeks to keep investigative agencies independent of the government.
He noted that the disciplinary power exercised by the government in matters of transfer, posting, suspension and writing of Annual Confidential Reports often hampers the independence of investigative agencies. He asserted that the lives of ordinary people would be radically transformed by a corrupt free and an efficient judicial system. C. Raj Kumar, vice chancellor of the O.P. Jindal Global University, stressed the need to improve the quality of governance and usher in good governance.
“No efforts to strengthen democratic institutions in India is possible without effectively fighting corruption,” he said. “The nature of corruption that prevails in India has created huge distrust between the state and the citizenry.”

(Source: IANS)

Prior sanction needed for action against officials? SC reserves verdict

supreme courtThe Supreme Court Thursday reserved verdict on the validity of a legal provision that mandates the CBI to seek the government’s prior sanction before proceeding against an officer of the rank of joint secretary or above on charges of corruption.
However, the six-bench constitution bench said that if it had to invalidate section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act merely on the grounds of its being arbitrary, then the measure would be referred to a still larger constitution bench of seven judges as there were conflicting judgments on this count.
The constitution bench of Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice A.K. Patnaik, Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya, Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla was hearing a 2005 reference by a three judge bench on the validity of section 6A.
Making the reference to the constitution bench, the court in 2005 had said: “In short, the moot question is whether arbitrariness and unreasonableness or manifest arbitrariness and unreasonableness, being facets of article 14 of the Constitution of India are available or not as grounds to invalidate a legislation”.
Reference to the larger bench was made on a petition by politician Subramanian Swamy. The government has resisted the plea seeking to invalidate the section, contending that it needed to protect its senior ranking officers who were involved in crucial decision-making process and they could not be exposed to undue harassment and exercise of police powers by the CBI.
Holding that section 6A, far from frustrating the rule of law in fact furthers the rule of law, the central government has contended that the legislative provision can’t be negated by the courts on the grounds of arbitrariness or unreasonableness unless it violated any of the fundamental rights.
Seeking to demolish the government’s position, counsel Prashant Bhushan asked the court how could the government decide whether the sanction could be given or not when it is itself or its subordinate officers are under cloud.
He wondered why a private citizen could not lodge a complaint against a government officer under the Prevention of Corruption Act as it violated the citizen’s rights and principles under article 21. “Whether approval by the Lokpal and CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) would be sufficient in this matter,” the court inquired as Bhushan said why the government should decide and not the CVC or the Lokpal.

(Source: IANS)

Government process to fill up Lokpal posts illegal: Jaitley

arunBJP leader Arun Jaitley Monday asked the government to withdraw the process it has initiated to fill up the posts of the chairman of Lokpal and its members, saying it was illegal.

Writing in his blog, Jaitley said the Department of Personnel and Training, which has invited applications for the posts, had no authority to do so according to the Lokpal and the Lokayukta Act.

He said the act provides for a selection committee comprising the prime minister, Lok Sabha speaker, the opposition leader in the Lok Sabha (which is Jaitley), the chief justice of India or a judge nominated by him and an eminent jurist to be appointed by the other four members.

He said the four members of the selection committee have not met so far.

Jaitley said the search committee shall consist of at least seven people drawn from different disciplines.

The BJP leader said he would tell the four members of the search committee that their power had been usurped.

Jaitley said the idea of a serving or retired judge of the highest court having to move applications for a post-retirement assignment was repugnant.

“The Selection Committee has not even formulated the procedure under which it will appoint the members and chairperson of the Lokpal,” he said.

“The advertisement … is contrary to the provisions of the act.”

(Source: IANS)

Bring PM under Lokpal, says BJP

The Bharatiya Janata Party Thursday supported bringing the prime minister under the purview of Lokpal, expressing dissatisfaction on the draft anti-corruption bill not mentioning the issue.

‘The BJP does not appreciate the complete omission of prime minister from the draft Lokpal bill, the prime minister should come under Lokpal,’ party general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here.

‘We will react on the Lokpal bill when it will come to parliament and goes to the standing committee,’ he said.

 

Lokpal should not probe PM: Baba Ramdev

The prime minister should be excluded from the purview of the proposed Lokpal, yoga guru Baba Ramdev said on Tuesday.

“It is a very complicated question whether the prime minister and the chief justice of India should be brought under Lokpal bill or not. The person who decides the fate of 121 crore people in democracy should not be given into the hands of bureaucrats,” Ramdev said during his ‘Swabhiman Yatra’ in Sehore district of Madhya Pradesh.

“In democracy, if the person sitting on the highest chair is criticised, will it be good for society?” asked the yoga guru, who has announced that he will sit on a fast in Delhi from June 4 to force the government to recover black money stashed in tax havens abroad.

“I accept that some chief justices of India were found to be indulging in corruption, but even then, I do not agree that these two positions should be included in the Lokpal bill,” he added.

The meeting between ministers and civil society leaders on the Lokpal bill drafting committee in New Delhi Monday too ended on a bitter note on this issue after the government said that the prime minister, judiciary, MPs as well as officers below the rank of joint secretaries should be kept out of the purview of the proposed Lokpal.