Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured BJP leader Arun Jaitley that the recent advertisements inviting applications for posts of Lokpal chairman and members have not flouted any rule and these was brought out to ensure that the ombudsman is established at the earliest.
Responding to a letter by the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha in which he had termed the DoPT advertisements "illegal", the Prime Minister said no rules were flouted. "May I, at the outset, assure you that the advertisement issued in this regard is strictly in terms of the provisions of the Act and the rules framed thereunder," Singh said in his letter.
Singh also quoted Rule 10 of the Lokpal Rules, 2014 notified recently. The rule states that the Search Committee shall prepare a panel of persons to be considered by the Selection Committee for appointment as the Chairperson and members of the Lokpal, from among the list provided by the central government in the DoPT.
Explaining the position, Singh said under this rule, the role of the DoPT is limited to preparing a list of persons for consideration of the Search Committee.
"It is not correct to say that the decision regarding selection by inviting applications or otherwise can only be taken by the Selection Committee. While the Selection Committee shall be free to consider the names other than those recommended by the Search Committee, it does not necessarily follow that the Search Committee would be guided by the Selection Committee in the manner of selection of panel of names as Act clearly provides for rules to be framed in this regard," he wrote.
He also said it was felt that the advertisements would save time and ensure that the Lokpal could be constituted at the earliest.
Jaitley had said the move to bring out advertisements violated provisions of the Lokpal Act and demanded that these be withdrawn. He wrote to the Prime Minister among other members of the Lokpal Selection Committee to point out how DoPT "usurped" powers of the committee and sought a course correction.
"Whether applications are to be invited or not has to be decided by the Selection Committee. The Union Government is alien to this power. The advertisement issued in this regard is contrary to provisions of the Act," the BJP leader said in a signed article saying "the advertisement which is illegal requires to be withdrawn".
Jaitley pointed out that the Act vests powers to select members of the Lokpal solely with a selection committee comprising the PM, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a judge nominated by him and an eminent jurist to be appointed by the other four members.
He highlighted that the first four members have not even met to decide the fifth member to complete the selection committee in the first place. But Prime Minister Singh said it would not be correct to infer that the entire process should be carried out sequentially commencing from the constitution of the full Selection Committee, for which the Selection Committee of the members other than the eminent jurists has to meet first.
"It is felt that these could be done parallelly to save time with the objective of constitution of Lokpal at the earliest," Singh said.