New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed disappointment over the central government’s delay in appointing Lokpal, India’s anti-corruption ombusdman.
A bench headed by T.S. Thakur, chief justice of India, sought the status on instituting Lokpal and wanted to know why this had not been done until now.
“Why is it taking the government so long? Will it take the rest of the government’s term to change this situation?” Thakur asked.
Mukul Rohatgi, attorney general told the court that the selection commission comprised five persons including the leader of opposition and the process had been stalled due to the lack of a leader of the opposition in Parliament.
Under the process for appointment of a leader of opposition, a party must have at least a tenth of the strength of the Lok Sabha. Currently, no party fulfils this criterion and therefore, the selection committee could not have instituted the Lokpal so far, said Rohatgi.
He said that to address the issue of delay in the appointment, the Centre had moved a bill for amending the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 as a result of which the leader of the largest opposition party could be a part of the selection committee. The bill is currently pending in Parliament.
This was opposed by senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, who said there was no need for an amendment as the term ‘leader of opposition’ had been defined under the Salary and Allowances of leader of opposition in Parliament Act, 1977.
The court noted that this was a peculiar situation due to which there was no serving leader of the opposition and the process of implementing the Lokpal Act had come to a halt.
Chief Justice Thakur suggested that since the Centre had recognized the need for moving the process quickly, it could issue an ordinance allowing the leader of the largest opposition party to be made part of the selection committee.
“You have moved a bill seeking an amendment to the Act to include the leader of the largest opposition party in the selection committee. The process should continue and the law cannot be made redundant,” Thakur remarked.
The court was responding to a plea by Prashant Bhushan led NGO, Common Cause, alleging that Lokpal had not been appointed in the last two years as there was no recognised leader of the opposition in parliament.
The case will be heard next on 7 December.