It was about two months ago that the Union Government decided to constitute a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the alleged “Snoop Gate” in Gujarat. The Gujarat Government had already constituted a Commission of Inquiry which is enquiring into the terms of reference. The object of the Central Government was political. They wanted to embarrass the Government of Gujarat and the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Shri Narendra Modi. Besides being a complete abuse of power by the Central Government, the Commission appointed by the Central Government smacked of vindictiveness and arrogance. Arrogance has been the hallmark of the UPA government in the past ten years. Arrogance is a certain guarantee for political downfall. The arrogant lack humility. Arrogance isolates them from various sections of society which find their attitude unacceptable.
What happened to that Commission? One after the other retired judges of the Supreme Court were approached to head the Commission. They declined to lend themselves for this politically motivated exercise. Thereafter, some retired Chief Justices of the High Courts were also approached. Apparently they also made it clear that they were not available for such an exercise. The Government had been morally isolated with nobody willing to cooperate in its colourable exercise of power.
Similarly, when the exercise for constituting the Selection Committee for selecting the Chairperson and Members of the Lokpal was undertaken, the Prime Minister and those sharing his opinion on the Selection Committee declined to accept any of the eminent names such as Justice Venkatchaliah, Fali S Nariman, Soli J Sorabjee, K. Parasaran, K.K. Venugopal and Harish Salve to be members of the select Committee in the Jurist category. When the Search Committee was appointed the Government wanted to appoint one or more of the three Government Advocates whose names it suggested. Mrs Sushma Swaraj declined to play ball.
I had requested the Prime Minister vide my letters dated 20th January 2014 and 30th January 2014 that the rules framed under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act were contrary to the Act. They had usurped the functions of the Selection Committee and the Search Committee. The Search Committee particularly had been reduced to performing a mere clerical exercise. My objections were over-ruled without a well considered response. I had argued that the Department of Personnel had usurped the powers of the Search Committee and the Selection Committee. No meeting of the Selection Committee had decided the criteria for selection. Eminent persons should be invited to become Members and Chairperson of the Lokpal. Applications compromise with their dignity and lead to lobbying.
Shri Fali S Nariman and Justice KT Thomas have now refused to serve on the Search Committee citing similar reasons. They believe that the process being undertaken is not intended to select the best man for the job. It is now clear that the institution of Lokpal is being damaged even prior to its creation. When eminent and independent persons of repute are refusing to associate with the search and selection exercise while suspecting the motives of the government its moral isolation is complete.