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A committee headed by attorney general Mukul Rohatgi has suggested major changes in the Lokpal selection rules to make the process of appointing the country’s first ombudsman free from government interference.
The committee, also comprising department of personnel and training (DoPT) secretary and law secretary, has advised empowering the search committee, instead of depending on a list sent by the government, to look for ideal candidates.
The suggested changes address the concerns raised by justice KT Thomas and noted jurist Fali Nariman who quit the search committee, saying it did not have actual freedom to propose candidates for selection.
Sources said the committee has said the search committee of seven members, which must include former judges and jurists, should be free to pick any person who in its opinion is considered to be eligible and suitable for the post. The selection committee headed by Prime Minister will then take a call on the names proposed.
“There will be no independence for the search committee if it has to merely go by the list submitted by the Central government,” the Rohatgi committee said.
Further, it also opined that the system of inviting applications from judges should be dispensed with as it demeaned their position.
The Modi government had appointed the Rohatgi committee after it informed SC on July 4 that it was keen to make the appointment procedure more independent and transparent. The submission had come in response to a PIL challenging the Lokpal selection rules. Filed during the UPA tenure, the petition alleged the provisions were unconstitutional.
The selection process of Lokpal is a multi-layered exercise. A sitting or former CJI or SC judge or an eminent jurist will head lokpal, which is to have four members each from the judicial and non-judicial sides.
These are to be appointed by the President on the recommendations of a five-member selection panel comprising Prime Minister, Speaker, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, CJI or an SC judge nominated by him and an eminent jurist.