Govt constitutes Lokpal search committee

The eight-member search committee includes former chief of SBI Arundhati Bhattacharya. PTI file photo

The Centre on Thursday notified the setting up of an eight-member search committee headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai for preparing a panel of persons as chairperson and members of the anti-corruption ombudsman Lokpal.

Justice Desai, who retired in 2014, will head the panel which also has former Allahabad High Court judge Justice Sakha Ram Singh Yadav, Prasar Bharati chairperson A Surya Prakash and former Isro chairperson A S Kiran Kumar as members.

Former solicitor general Ranjit Kumar, former chief of State Bank of India (SBI) Arundhati Bhattacharya, former Gujarat director general of police Shabbirhusein S Khandwawala, retired IAS officer and vice-chancellor of Rajasthan ILD Skills University Lalit K Panwar are the other members.

The formation of the search committee comes amid the Congress upping the ante over inviting its leader in the Lok Sabha as a "special invitee" only as he does not have the right to record his opinion but only be present as an observer. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has boycotted past six meetings — March 1, April 10, July 19, August 21, September 4 and September 19 — citing his status in the panel.

The Lok Sabha does not have a designated Leader of Opposition as the Congress, the single largest party in the Opposition, does not have 10% strength in the Lower House. The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act stipulates that the selection committee headed by the prime minister should have the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha as its member.

The Congress had earlier demanded that the government should amend the Lokpal Act to include the leader of the single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha in the selection committee.

The government was at the receiving end in the Supreme Court in July when it found "unsatisfactory" its response on steps taken for setting up Lokpal.

NGO Common Cause had petitioned the apex court to either take contempt action or use its power under Article 142 of the Constitution to appoint the Lokpal. It had claimed that the government showed "complete intrasigence" despite the passage of the law four-and-half year ago.

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