New Delhi: Strongly pushing for appointment of a Lokpal, the Supreme Court today said the existing Lokpal Act is a workable piece of legislation and there was no justification to keep its operation pending.
The court was also of the opinion that there was absolutely no need to wait for amendments to the Act for enforcing it.
Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 came into force in 2014.
The tone of the court order meant that the SC bench did not agree with the Centre that absence of leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha was delaying the appointments.
PRIMACY FOR CJI
The bench also said in selection of eminent jurist for being part of selection committee with Prime Minister, Leader Of Opposition, Lok Sabha Speaker and Chief Justice of India , the CJI will have primacy.
A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Navin Sinha was delivering judgment in a public interest litigation filed three years ago by NGO Common Cause and argued by noted activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan seeking appointment of a Lokpal and Lokayuktas. It wanted that the Chairperson and the members of the body should be appointed as per the amended rules framed under the 2013 Act.
The bench had reserved its verdict on March 28.
The hearing of the PIL filed by NGO Common Cause had touched its peak on November 23 last year when the apex court pulled up the Centre over the delay in appointment of Lokpal saying it should not allow the law to become a “dead letter.”
The judgment is significant as Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the Centre had argued that the Lokpal cannot be appointed in the current scenario as amendments regarding the definition of the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Lokpal Act was pending in the Parliament.
As per the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha will be part of the Lokpal selection panel. At present, there is no Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. He said that the Congress, the largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha, lacks requisite number of MPs. Therefore, the Leader of Opposition post was not granted to it.
“Unless the proposed amendment making Leader of the Largest Opposition party as Leader of Opposition is passed by Parliament, the Lokpalcan’t be appointed,” Rohatgi said.
Bhushan said that even though the Lokpal Bill was passed by the Parliament in 2013 and came into effect in 2014, the Lokpal is not being appointed by the government deliberately.
He said that the Lokpal Act mandates that the Lokpal should be appointed expeditiously.
On December 7, 2016, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to place before it a copy of the report of a parliamentary standing committee suggesting amendments to the Lokpal law, and sought to know about the changes required to make the anti-graft ombudsman functional.
The apex court had said that the Lokpal law that came into being after a nationwide stir led by Anna Hazare cannot be made redundant just because the legislation was not amended to bring in the leader of the largest Opposition party in the selection panel.
The NGO in its plea also sought a direction to the Centre to ensure that the procedure for selecting the chairperson and members of Lokpal must be transparent as envisaged under the Act.
“The inaction of the government in making the appointment of Lokpal is arbitrary and unreasonable and hence, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution,” it contended. It had also said that one of the ways to ensure total transparency in the selection process is that the panel of persons to be prepared by the search committee for consideration by the selection committee must be placed in public domain.