Reality Check India

Lokpal selection stumbles at the start

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on February 6, 2014

UPDATE: See the part marked in red

Sushma Swaraj of the BJP is a Lokpal Selector Selector Selector. 

So are Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Speaker Meira Kumar, and Supreme Court Judge H.L Dattu. Together these four are going to first select an “eminent jurist” who will complete a 5 member committee whose only job to select another committee who will eventually select the inaugural 8-member Lokpal.

You may wonder what Justice Dattu is doing here, because as per the Lokpal Act the Chief Justice of India should join this panel. Actually as per the Lokpal Act, the CJI   or anyone he nominates can be on the panel. The catch here is those on the selection panels cant aspire to be Lokpal. It would be tantamount to selecting yourself. So CJI Sathasivam has kept the doors open for himself to be a Lokpal.

This five-member selection committee will choose the Lokpal and other members.

Source: Indian Express

That a  premier Indian newspaper like the Indian Express gets a crucial detail totally wrong is astounding. Lets clear it up. As per the Lokpal Act Sec 4 (3) The task of these 5 people (assuming they can select the eminent jurist) is to select a “search committee” consisting of seven eminent people of standing.

Search Committee consisting of at least seven persons of standing and having special knowledge and expertise in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, policy making, finance including insurance and banking, law and management ..

Sec 4 (3) of Lokpal Act

The restriction is that the eminent people of standing in the  search committee should have 50% quota for SC/ST/OBC/Minority/Women.

The search committee then selects the final Lokpal panel which consists of a Lokpal and Eight members. Five of the eight must be from SC/ST/OBC/Minority/Women and four from the legal field. UPDATE: Thanks to a commentor, this isnt correct. The search committee does not actually select the final panel but returns the names to the original selection committee which then adds its own names and selects the final panel. – EDIT – In my opinion this only  makes it worse. 

Is your head spinning yet?  Is this feasible ? Today, we are at stage 0 –  the discussion revolves around whether PP Rao is a more eminent jurist than Harish Salve or Fali Nariman. Tomorrow a dozen supreme court justices will compete for the judicial slots. A thousand NGOs and activists will compete the the “civil society” slots. The sheer energy spent by all those in the ecosystem will be astounding.  Who do you leave out?

Packing Lokpal with Congress loyalists?

Sushma Swaraj is fighting all the way to the president while  Manmohan Singh and others wont budge. This is an all too familiar sight and expected because of the high stakes involved.  Simply put this is an institution that is begging to be captured.

The multi stage selection of Lokpal enhances the possibility of total capture – because if you capture a bare majority of selectors at Stage 0 – then ALL selectors at Stage 1 can be owned. This is perhaps the reason why Mrs Swaraj is so worried.

The caste and religious quotas for the search and final Lokpal will see extreme involvement from political outfits as they will veto candidates who are not seen to work for the benefit of these classes.  The Lokpal also suffers from fatal flaws in paneling. It is too much to go into it in this post – but a quick point.

If the rationale was to ensure  communal representation in a judicial/investigative body to protect the interests of those defendants – then paneling (selecting two/three member “benches”) defeats the purpose. Mark my words this will be an explosive issue in the future as both defendants and litigants will question the neutrality of any panel on grounds of religion, caste, or gender.  What they are really expecting is like a representative jury system.

Modi should watch the developments carefully as a loaded Lokpal can dissipate any projects that he might embark on. There is enough ambiguity on the statute books  and enough well paid activists to checkmate any discretion on the part of officials executing these projects.

Given the horrendous implications of this ill conceived piece of legislation on our economic well being – it is perhaps good that they are not able to start the engine.

Please lets not call the mechanic.

3 Responses

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  1. Michael Corleone said, on February 12, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    You have got the following wrong.

    “The search committee then selects the final Lokpal panel which consists of a Lokpal and Eight members. Five of the eight must be from SC/ST/OBC/Minority/Women and four from the legal field.”

    Just a few lines below from where you have quoted, is this

    “Provided further that the Selection Committee may also consider any person other than the persons
    recommended by the Search Committee.”

    So, the Search Committee merely gives the Selection Committee a panel of persons to be *considered* for appointment and that the Selection Committee can also consider persons other than those recommended by the Search Committee.

    I do not disagree with the rest of the article.

    • realitycheck said, on February 15, 2014 at 5:45 am

      Thanks, and you are correct.

      I have updated the post to reflect the error. As always, I dont delete the old content but post over it to reflect the error.

      I think this makes it even worse. The search committee’s task seem to be of the nature of calling for nominations and forwarding them. If they arent the final selectors, they cant be expected to have norms for rating desirable candidates. etc .

  2. Michael Corleone said, on February 12, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    And, I am afraid that the Indian Express has actually got it right this time.

    “This five-member selection committee will choose the Lokpal and other members” is actually true.

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