Senior lawyer Fali Nariman has refused to participate in the process of selecting India's first ever Lokpal, or national anti-corruption ombudsman, weeks after a controversy over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's nominee for the Lokpal selection committee.
"I decline the honour. In my humble view this is no way in which an institution as vital and as important as the Lokpal (should) be constituted," Mr Nariman said in a letter to the Prime Minister's Office today. He had been asked to join the Lokpal Search Panel last week.
The search panel is a second layer in the process of selecting a Lokpal, and is to work under the Lokpal Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister.
Mr Nariman said he feared that in this selection process, "the most competent, the most independent, and the most courageous will get overlooked."
Earlier this month, the BJP had opposed the Prime Minister's choice of Supreme Court lawyer PP Rao as a jurist for the Lokpal selection committee.
The Lokpal Bill, passed by Parliament last December, provides that the national ombudsman and his team will be selected by the selection panel comprising the PM, Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or his nominee and a fifth member, a jurist, picked by these four.
The BJP's Sushma Swaraj, who is leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, was reportedly outvoted 3-1 on the choice of PP Rao, whom she described as a "Congress loyalist who had appeared in court for the ruling party several times."
"We're appointing the Lokpal after 40 years, let's do it with unanimity," Ms Swaraj reportedly told the Prime Minister, accusing him of scripting a repeat of the 2011 row over the appointment of PJ Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner despite a corruption case against him. That appointment was struck down by the Supreme Court.