Govt can name Lokpal in absence of LoP, says SC

Terms Act 'workable piece of legislation'

Govt can name Lokpal in absence of LoP, says SC

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the central government can go ahead with the appointment of the Lokpal even in the absence of the Leader of the Opposition.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha maintained there was no requirement for the government to wait for the laws to change.

According to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha will be part of the Lokpal selection panel. At present, there is no Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House.

The government had earlier said the appointment could not be made pending amendments as the position of the Leader of the Opposition in the selection committee had to be substituted by the leader of the single largest party in the Opposition.

“The (Lokpal) Act as it stands today is an eminently workable piece of legislation and there is no justification to keep the enforcement of the Act under suspension till the amendments, as proposed, are carried out,” the court said, referring to its judgement on a batch of PILs filed by NGO Common Cause and others.

The court relied upon Section 4(2) of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, which lays down that the appointment of the Lokpal and other members would not become invalid due to vacancy of any member in the selection committee.

“If, at present, the Leader of the Opposition is not available, surely, the chairperson and the other two members of the selection committee, namely, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India or his nominee may proceed to appoint an eminent jurist as a member of the selection committee under Section 4(1)(e) of the Act,” the bench held.

Under the Act, the selection committee comprises the Prime Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or his nominee, an eminent jurist and the Leader of the Opposition. However, as the Congress does not have 10% seats of the total strength of the Lok Sabha, it was denied the status of the Leader of the Opposition, stalling the appointment of the ombudsman.

The petitioners had claimed that the government has shown no interest to appoint the Lokpal in the absence of the Leader of the Opposition, though it has amended various other statutes, including those for the selection of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, CBI chief and Chief Information Commissioner. In a separate judgement, the court dismissed a plea by an NGO for according primacy to the opinion of the CJI in the selection committee.
 

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