NEW DELHI, 23 Nov: Taking a cognizance on the delay in appointment of Lokpal, the Supreme Court has slammed the Centre citing that it should not allow the law to become a “dead letter”.
The Supreme Court expressed displeasure that Lokpal law 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.
The appointment of the anti-corruption ombudsman has been pending since the The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 which received Presidential assent on January 1, 2014 on the ground that the legislation provides that the Leader of Opposition (LoP) has to be in selection team, but there is no Leader of Opposition in the present Lok Sabha.
Referring to the key pre-requisite that LoP has to be there in Lokpal selection team, the bench, chaired by Chief Justice TS Thakur, said the Leader of Opposition is “dispensable” and things can proceed even without LoP who can be replaced by the leader of the largest opposition party in the committee.
The Supreme Court expressed disappointment over the Centre’s claim that the amendment to replace 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”.
“Now we don’t have LoP for past the two-and-a-half years and it is likely that for the next two-and-a-half years, we would not have LoP.”
“Since it is not likely to happen, there won’t be any LoP. Then will you allow the law to become redundant just because there is no LoP? An institution like this which is for probity in public life can’t be allowed to become redundant. This institution won’t work like this,” the bench, also comprising justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi contended that as per the provision, the largest opposition party has to have a certain number of MPs in Lok Sabha to claim the post of LoP and the amendment is pending with Parliament.
In Lok Sabha, the largest opposition party – Congress has only 45 members and lacks the requisite 10 percent of total 545 seats, hence there is need of the amendment the present Lokpal Act.
The law enables the selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal shall be through a selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, LoP in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a sitting SC judge nominated by the CJI, an eminent jurist to be nominated by President of India on the basis of recommendations of first four members of selection committee.