The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions seeking the appointment of a Lokpal as per the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, as the government informed the court that Lokpal cannot be appointed until amendments are cleared by the parliament.
A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “We have heard the arguments of all the parties. Judgement (is) reserved.”
During the hearing, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the Lokpal cannot be appointed in the current scenario as amendments regarding the definition of the Leader of Opposition in the Lokpal Act was pending in Parliament.
“The government is considering 20 changes in the Lokpal law and the judiciary can’t pass order on how and when the amendments should be passed,” Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said.
Under the Lokpal Act, the selection panel must include the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha. But the largest opposition party – the Congress – has only 45 members and lacks the requisite 10 per cent of the total 545 seats, giving rise to the requirement to amend the present Lokpal Act.
Appearing for the NGO Common Cause, Prashant Bhushan said the Lokpal law has been passed after a long struggle and the government is doing nothing to make it functional. “Here is a law which was enacted three years ago after a long battle. It is the duty of the government and the court to ensure that the law is enforced,” Bhushan said.
Last December, the apex court had asked the government to place before it a copy of the report of a Parliamentary Standing Committee suggesting amendments to the Lokpal law and wanted to know about the changes required to make the anti-graft ombudsman functional.
Rohatgi had then told the bench that views of the apex court had been conveyed to the highest authority that it “cannot go on like this” and assured the bench that the process would be “expedited”.
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. Referring to the key pre-requisite that the Leader of Opposition has to be there in Lokpal selection panel, the apex court had said that the LoP is “dispensable” and things can proceed without the LoP who can be replaced by the leader of the largest opposition party in the committee.
The apex court had also expressed disappointment when the Centre said the amendment to replace the LoP with the leader of the largest opposition party in the proposed selection committee of Lokpal is pending with Parliament and asking it to clear would amount to “judicial legislation”.