Justice K T Thomas quits as head of Lokpal search panel

The Lokpal search panel constituted by the central government looked stillborn after former Supreme Court judge K T Thomas quit as head of the search panel.

K T ThomasJustice Thomas, who was the head of the panel constituted on 20 February to search for nine members of the proposed national anti-corruption ombudsman Lokpal, sent in his resignation letter to the prime minister's office (PMO) expressing his inability to continue in the job.

Thomas' move to quit the Lokpal search committee, which comes nearly a week after noted jurist Fali Nariman refused the government's invitation to be a part of the committee, comes as a big embarrassment for the ruling United Progressive Alliance at the centre after its failure to get the President to agree to promulgate select anti-corruption ordinances ahead of the announcement of the Lok Sabha election.

Other members of the search committee are former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi, principal of Delhi's Lady Shri Ram College Meenakshi Gopinath, educationist Mrinal Miri, former Andhra Pradesh chief secretary Kaki Madhava Rao and senior journalist and Rajya Sabha Member H K Dua.

Justice Thomas, who retired from the apex court in 2002, was the unanimous choice of the selection committee comprising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, Supreme Court Judge HL Dattu (nominee of the Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam), leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Jurist PP Rao.

"I have decided to withdraw from the search committee after I studied the rules. The selection committee itself can find out the persons from the list of central government, what the search committee is expected to do and forward the list to the government," Thomas said in his letter to PMO.

The appointment of the selection committee for the Lokpal search panel also was mired in controversy after the Bhartiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swraj last month opposed the inclusion of prime minister's choice of Supreme Court lawyer P P Rao for the committee.

Swaraj described Rao as a ''Congress loyalist'', and took the matter to the President.

The BJP had earlier questioned the manner in which applications were invited for the posts of chairperson and members of the Lokpal.

The President will appoint the chairperson and members of the Lokpal on the basis of the recommendations of the selection committee.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, provides for the establishment of a Lokpal at the central level and Lokayuktas for the states to look into allegations of corruption against public functionaries.