July 24, 2018
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to file a detailed affidavit giving “full particulars” of the steps being taken for setting up a search committee for suggesting probable names for the appointment of the Lokpal.
Describing the affidavit filed by the Centre, which was read out to the court, as “wholly unsatisfactory”, a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice R. Bhanumathi and Justice Navin Sinha directed the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to file a “better affidavit” with full particulars in four weeks’ time.
Saying the affidavit was “wholly unsatisfactory”, Justice Gogoi in the order said: “We, therefore, do not accept the same and direct the concerned authority to file a better affidavit giving full particulars within a period of four weeks from today (Tuesday).”
The affidavit of July 23 was filed by the Secretary (Personnel), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Personnel and Training.
Referring to Attorney General K.K. Venugopal’s suggestion asking the court to indicate the nature of the detailed particulars to be incorporated in the affidavit, the order said: “We do not feel the necessity of recording any observations/directions to the said effect…”
Refusing to spell out the nature of particulars it would like to be incorporated in the affidavit, the order said: “…the competent authority should not have any difficulty to appreciate and understand the nature of the particulars that are required to be laid before the Court.”
At the outset of the hearing, Attorney General Venugopal told the court the meeting of the selection committee decided to set up the search committee and in the next meeting, the members of selection committee would suggest suitable names for the search committee.
These names for the search committee “will be considered in the next meeting of the selection committee, which will be fixed after ascertaining the convenience of the Chairperson and members”, the affidavit said.
Venugopal said that the process would take time as people to be included in the search committee have to be experts in law, finances, fighting corruption and other areas.
He also said that after finalising the names for the search committee, they would be vetted by the Intelligence Bureau and it was a time-consuming process.
The Attorney General told the court that 50 per cent members of the search committee would have to be from the scheduled castes/scheduled tribes and the Other Backward Classes.
Accusing the Centre of dragging its feet in not carrying out the legislative mandate to appoint anti-corruption watchdog Lokpal, counsel Prashant Bhushan appearing for NGO Common Cause told the court that in the last four-and-a-half years, the selection committee had only senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi in the category of eminent jurist.
He said the only option available to the court was either to initiate contempt proceedings against the people responsible for delaying the entire exercise, or take recourse to Article 142 of the Constitution and in exercise of its powers appoint a search committee and then appoint a Lokpal from the names suggested by the search committee.