Thomas opts out of Lokpal search panel

Move exposes govt's plan to restrict applicants

Thomas opts out of Lokpal search panel

Former Supreme Court judge K T Thomas on Monday declined to head the Lokpal search committee, days after jurist Fali Nariman opted out of the panel.

Thomas’ decision came as an embarrassment to the government as it blew the cover off alleged plans to restrict applicants to the posts of Lokpal chairperson and members.
 Nariman last Thursday refused to be part of the panel, voicing concern over the selection process. He said it might exclude “the most competent, independent and courageous”.

“I write this letter to inform you that I withdraw my willingness to accept the office of the chairperson of the search committee. I am sorry for the inconvenience caused to you,” Thomas, who is reported to have initially accepted the offer, wrote in a letter to Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy. The constitution of a committee that requires judges from different parts of the country to spend considerable time on their job, only to have their decision vetoed by another committee, didn’t make sense, he said. 

The refusal came after Thomas sought from the government rules framed for the search committee. He wanted to see “whether scope of the search committee has been curtailed”.

Thomas told Deccan Herald from Kottayam that after studying the rules governing the selection process, he was sceptical about the “necessity” of having a committee with limited powers. According to the rules, the eight-member search committee had to select candidates exclusively from a list procured from the DoPT and forward their names to the selection committee. It could not conduct any independent search for deserving candidates. 

“Even if the search committee succeeds in identifying good candidates, the selection committee is not bound to pick them. This leaves us with the question on the need for such a search committee when the selection committee itself can make the final decision on the Lokpal panel,” Thomas added. 

“I wonder why there should be a search committee at all, much less, the arduous work to be undertaken by the members of such a committee when the selection committee itself can decide who should be the members of the Lokpal. That apart, the requirement of seeking applications from persons to be considered as members of the Lokpal has already been widely criticised. No doubt, it will deter many deserving persons from being brought under consideration,” he said.

Thomas said Nariman’s remarks prompted him to study the rules in detail. He also criticised the process of seeking applications from eminent judges to be part of the Lokpal.

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