#Lokpal: Thomas Quits Panel; Cong Says ‘˜Not Embarrassed’

Thomas’s resignation comes within a week after eminent lawyer Fali Nariman declined to be a part of the same panel.

Jolting the UPA government’s efforts to set the Lokpal in place before the expiry of its term, former Supreme Court Judge KT Thomas stormed out of the search committee on Monday. His resignation comes within a week after eminent lawyer Fali Nariman declined to be a part of the same panel.

The panel’s mandate is to forward names to a selection committee headed by the Prime Minister for appointment of the chairperson and other members of the Lokpal.

As The Hindu reported, Thomas spoke to the paper and said, “When Mr. Nariman opted out of the search panel, I got a copy of the Lokpal rules and after going through the rules I fully agree with what Mr. Nariman has said.”

He found the “recommendations of the search committee are not binding on the selection committee. Therefore, the work of the search committee can as well be done by the selection committee itself.” In his letter to Minister of State in the PMO V. Narayanasamy, in which he declined to be part of the search committee, Justice Thomas said its job was only to pick names from the list given by the Department of Personnel and not make an independent search.

Thomas said the move to seek applications from persons to be considered for Lokpal membership had been widely criticised, and there was no doubt it would deter deserving persons from being considered. Justice Thomas said he did not consider it worthwhile to travel to New Delhi just to draw up a panel from the list.

Besides the prime minister, the selection panel has the lok sabha speaker, the leader of the opposition, the chief justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist nominated by the President or any other member.

Nariman’s name was suggested by panel member, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj when the selection committee wanted to nominate a jurist member, but instead senior advocate PP Rao was chosen.

On January 27, in a letter to Narayanasamy, Nariman had declined the “honour” to be part of the search committee. He had stated that the current selection process would overlook “the most competent, the most independent and the most courageous.”

Narayanasamy, who is Minister of State for Personnel, had said all procedures had been followed for forming the search committee.

“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,” he had said.

Leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, who had written to the prime minister on the issue twice earlier, had alleged that the procedure adopted by DoPT was violative of the Lokpal Act in order to rush through the appointments and “pack it”.

He had said the best people should be appointed to the anti-corruption body and the procedure should be strictly on the basis of the Lokpal Act.

While both the incidences have become a major embarrassment point for the Congress, BJP is on the attacking side with its leader’s advice overlooked.

“Where is the question of government being embarrassed? I do not find any head or tail of this question. It is a statutory body. Each position on this has to be fulfilled,” party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters. “Giving or not giving consent cannot be linked to government. These are private decisions. People can say yes or no for many reasons. How you can blame government for this?” he added.

“Today what has happened on the Lokpal issue is a real embarrassment and actually exposes the Congress design, their politics. This is actually a severe blow to the government’s image…. They wanted Lokpal committee to be appointed before they demit the office because only Congressmen’s cases will go to Lokpal as they have indulged in all kinds of corruption,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.

It should be noted that the BJP had extended full support to the UPA government when it had come down to the passing Lokpal Bill given activist Anna Hazare was sitting on dharna and Rahul needed a makeover. With these two jolts to the government, BJP’s game plan becomes clear.

As Javadekar later added, “The party is happy that the wise have given their verdict against the government.”

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