New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) The process of naming an eminent jurist to the Selection Committee for appointing the Lokpal had begun, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
A meeting was held on April 10 and recommendations in this regard have been made, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, told a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R. Banumathi.
Refusing to pass any order at this stage, the bench said it expects the process of appointing the Lokpal would be completed at the earliest. The matter will now be heard on May 15.
On April 10, Leader of the Congress Party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge yet again declined the government’s invitation to attend a meeting of the Lokpal selection committee as “special invitee” terming it “misleading”.
Pointing out that there is no provision in the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act for a “special invitee”, Kharge, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said there was no sense in attending the meeting without rights of participation or voting. He had earlier also refused to attend a meeting called by Prime Minister to choose a Lok Pal.
Senior advocate P.P. Rao was earlier named as the eminent jurist in the selection panel but the post fell vacant after he passed away in 2017.
Earlier, the Centre had informed the apex court that a meeting of the Selection Committee was scheduled to take place to deliberate on the steps to be taken to appoint a Lokpal.
The committee comprises the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, Lok Sabha Speaker, the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha and an eminent jurist.
The jurist is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Selection Committee with the Prime Minister as its Chairman.
The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by NGO Common Cause after the government failed to act on the April 27, 2017, judgment of the top court, holding that the “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’s observation had come while addressing the question whether the Lokpal law, as it exists today, is so “unworkable” that it (court) should refuse its enforcement, notwithstanding the fact that the Lokpal Act had come into force by a January 16, 2014, notification.
The Centre had flagged two hurdles in implementing the Lokpal law. First, that it provides for the selection panel to have the Leader of Opposition (LOP) as one of its members. However, there is no recognised Leader of Opposition in the current Lok Sabha.
The other hurdle it cited relates to the tenure of the eminent jurist to be appointed by the Selection Committee.
Referring to the provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, and the amendments the government wanted to bring, the judgment had said that Sub-Section (2) of Section 4 of the Lokpal Act says that the appointment of the Chairperson or a Member of the Lokpal will not become invalid merely because of the reason of any vacancy in the Selection Committee.