Can’t appoint Lokpal for now, Centre tells SC

Points to amendments in law pending in Parliament

Published - March 29, 2017 12:30 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Centre on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that appointment of the anti-corruption ombudsman, Lokpal, is not possible now.

Appearing before a Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi said the amendments to the Lokpal law, concerning the substitution of the Leader of Opposition (LoP) with the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha on the high-power Lokpal selection committee, is still pending with Parliament.

The committee comprises the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, LoP and the Chief Justice of India or a SC judge as per the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013. But the 16th Lok Sabha has no recognised LoP.

Mr. Rohatgi said the implementation of the Lokpal law would remain in limbo till Parliament allowed the single largest opposition party leader to take the place of the LoP in the latter’s absence. “Unless the proposed amendment making leader of the largest opposition party as LoP is passed by Parliament, the Lokpal cannot be appointed,” he submitted.

Judgment reserved

The court reserved the case for pronouncement of judgment. During the hearing, Mr. Rohatgi said Parliament may discuss the amendment in the monsoon session along with other ones in the Lokpal Bill.

Senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, for petitioner NGO Common Cause, alleged that the Lokpal Act which came into force in 2014 was deliberately not implemented for ulterior motives.

Mr. Bhushan submitted that the court should not leave it to the political parties to pass the Lokpal law, and give directions to Parliament to amend it. He pointed out how the LoP has been substituted with the single largest opposition party leader in other laws concerned with the appointments of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, the CBI chief and the Chief Information Commissioner.

The SC had earlier criticised the government for “dragging its feet” on the appointment of Lokpal to usher in probity in public life.

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