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Appointment of Lokpal not feasible presently, Centre tells Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict in a PIL seeking directions to the Centre to appoint 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.

Attorney General, Mukul Rohatgi, submitted to a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha that there was no clarity on who the ‘Leader of the opposition’ is and stated that the Lok Sabha had declined to accept Congress leader, Mallikarjun Kharge as the leader of the opposition.

Centre has also informed the top court that the parliament is considering over 20 changes in the Lokpal law and the “judiciary cannot pass an order on how and when the amendments be passed,” and hence requested the court to refrain from passing an order.

Rohatgi further submitted that as per the provision, to claim the post of the Leader of the Opposition (LoP), the largest opposition party must have 10 percent of total number of MPs in the Lok Sabha, and an amendment to this effect has been pending with the parliament.

Indian National Congress has 44 members in the Lok Sabha and therefore lacks the requisite 10 percent total of the 545 seats currently which now leads to the need off amending the Lokpal Act.

However, Shanti Bhushan, who was representing the NGO Common Cause, on whose behalf the PIL was filed, did not agree with Rohatgi and stated that the government never had “any intention to have an independent body like the Lokpal, which can investigate ministers.” Bhushan also mentioned that when a law which has been duly passed is not operative, then it is “the constitutional duty of the courts to intervene.”

During an earlier hearing, the court had rapped the government over the delay in appointment of Lokpal and had warned the centre that the law should not end up becoming a “dead letter.”

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, provides for selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, LoP in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a sitting SC judge nominated by the him, and an eminent jurist to be nominated by President of India on the basis of recommendations of first four members of selection panel.