The government has notified new Lokpal search committee rules, giving it more freedom to recommend names for chairperson and members of the anti-corruption body outside the list provided by the Department of Personnel and Training.
Earlier rules, which were formed by the previous United Progressive Alliance government, mandated the search committee to prepare a panel of persons to be considered by the prime minister-led selection committee for appointment as the chairperson and members of the Lokpal, from among the list of persons given by the DoPT.
In the new rules, the government has omitted restrictions for the search committee to recommend the names for Lokpal through the list provided by the DoPT.
"The search committee may, for the purpose of short-listing of persons, adopt such short-listing norms as it may consider appropriate," said the rules notified by the DoPT.
"The words 'from among the list of persons provided by the central government in the Department of Personnel and Training' shall be omitted," the new rules said. The central government shall provide such assistance as may be required by the search committee in efficient discharge of its functions in accordance with the provisions of the Act, they said.
The government has also reduced the composition of the search committee to seven members from eight. The search committee will now consist of at least seven persons of standing and having special knowledge in anti-corruption, public administration and vigilance among others, the rules said.
As per the earlier rules, an eight-member search panel was tasked to draw up a panel of persons for consideration by the selection committee. With changes in the search committee rules have been notified, the government will go ahead with the process of appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, official sources said.
The government has also done away with the time-limit of 30 days given to the search committee for recommending the names, after receiving the list from the DoPT, to the selection committee.
The search committee will have to give the list of names who could be considered for chairperson and members of the Lokpal "within such period as may be decided by the election committee".
The search committee shall, as far as possible, in case of members recommend a panel containing names at least three times the number of vacancies to be filled, the new rules said.
Earlier, the committee was to recommend a panel containing at least three times the number of vacancies advertised. The search committee is mandated to recommend, in case of chairperson of Lokpal, a panel of at least five names.
The rules were notified following a recommendation by a committee headed by Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi. The committee was formed to look into any legal complications for bringing in changes in the search panel rules, which were formed by the last UPA government.
The UPA government could not go ahead with the much-touted appointment of chairperson and members of Lokpal due to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s objection to the selection procedure.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act provides for establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries.
The Lokpal selection committee has as its members the Lok Sabha speaker, leader of opposition in the lower house, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist who could be nominated by the President or any other member.