The Centre today informed the Supreme Court that it will not take any immediate decision on the appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, virtually indicating that the decision in this regard might be left to the new government after the general elections.
Appearing before a bench headed by Justice R M Lodha, Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran said the government is not planning to take any decision on the appointment of Lokpal after which the apex court posted the case for hearing on May 5. The bench said there was no need for any interim order on a PIL challenging the selection procedure for the Lokpal after the government assured the court that no decision will be taken till May 5. The bench was hearing a plea filed by NGO Common Cause seeking a stay on the entire selection process of appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, saying the government was going ahead with it despite the apex court being seized of the issue.
"It is submitted that the latest move by the government to proceed with the appointment of the chairperson and members of the Lokpal, even while this court is seized of the issue of the validity of the rules framed under the Lokpal Act, is not only highly improper but also illegal and arbitrary," the application has said.
The NGO has filed the fresh plea following apex court's oral observation during an earlier hearing in which the bench had said if it comes across any such development (by the government so far as the selection of the Lokpal and its members was concerned), it would be at liberty to approach this court for interim directions. The NGO's plea, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, has sought to declare "illegal" the rules under which selections are being done. The NGO has filed the fresh plea in the matter pending before the apex court in which it had questioned the entire selection process for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal.
On April 1, the bench had sought response from the Centre asking it to justify within four weeks the Search Committee (Constitution, Terms and Conditions of appointment of members and manner of selection of panel of names for appointment of Chairperson and Members of Lokpal) Rules, 2014, framed under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2014.
The PIL has sought a declaration that certain provisions of the rules are ultra vires of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act and also sought quashing of the entire selection process initiated under the rules alleging that it is "illegal, arbitrary" and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
It has said that the government is going ahead with the selection process despite there being serious flaws in the rules under which selections are being done.
"Justice K T Thomas and Fali Nariman, who were offered the post of the chairman and member of the Search Committee respectively, have already declined to accept the offers on these very grounds," the petition has said. "Therefore, if the selection process of the Lokpal is not stayed during the pendency of the present writ petition, it would be rendered infructuous and public interest would suffer," it has said.
The petition has also said that Rule 10 (1) provides that the Search Committee shall prepare a panel of persons to be considered by the Selection Committee for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, from among the list of persons provided by the central government, "directly runs counter to the very object of having an independent Lokpal and the provisions of the said Act".
"At least four sitting judges of this court are reported to have expressed their willingness for being considered for the post of judicial members of the Lokpal.
"Their candidature, even though permitted under clause (3) of Section 3 of the Act, will seriously compromise the independence of judiciary which is a part of the basic feature of our Constitution, since the government, which is the biggest litigant before this court, will be processing and considering the names of the judges of this court for appointment as judicial members of the Lokpal," the petition has said.