The Supreme Court on Thursday pushed for the immediacy of a Lokpal for transparency in government and public life.
A Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi disagreed with Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi’s stand that appointment of a Lokpal is not currently possible as there is no Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the 16th Lok Sabha.
As per the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, the LoP in the Lok Sabha will be part of the Lokpal selection panel. Since there is no LoP in the lower house as the largest opposition party, Congress, lacks the requisite number of MPs, the AG made the above argument.
Since 2014, the law has been hanging in limbo pending an amendment to switch the LoP for the leader of the single largest party in the opposition in the Lok Sabha. If the amendment is made, the single largest opposition party leader can take the place of the LoP at the selection panel for the Lokpal.
The bench, siding with the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Common Cause three years ago, said that the legislation passed to appoint an anti-corruption ombudsman was an “eminently workable piece of legislation” and the Centre does not need to keep its enforcement pending. It added that the amendment to the Act should also be implemented at the earliest.
The apex court ruled that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) will have the final call in choosing an eminent jurist to be part of the selection committee that will appoint the Lokpal, though the panel will also include the Prime Minister, the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Lower House Speaker, according to Live Law.
The Lokpal Bill was passed by the Parliament in 2013 and came into effect in 2014.
Activist Prashant Bhushan who one of the advocates arguing for the PIL said that the government is deliberately delaying the appointment of the Lokpal which should have happened expeditiously after the Act was passed.
The Jan Lokpal movement
A Lokpal is an ombudsman who has jurisdiction over all Members of Parliament and central government employees in cases of corruption.
The Lokpal bill, for the first time, was presented during the fourth Lok Sabha in 1968. Since then, there have been many instances where the bill was revived, but never passed.
In 2013, the law to set up a Lokpal was passed in parliament after a massively popular campaign led by activist Anna Hazare that included Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan. It was enacted a year later.
However, the government kept delaying the appointment of a Lokpal on the contention that the Lok Sabha had no Leader of Opposition.
With the Supreme Court’s verdict that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) will have the final call in choosing an eminent jurist to be part of the Lokpal selection committee, the Centre can no longer delay the appointment of a Lokpal.