The Supreme Court on Thursday said the legislation passed to appoint an anti-corruption ombudsman – a Lokpal – was a workable one and there was no need for the Centre to keep its implementation pending. “There is no justification for the government to hold the Lokpal Act in abeyance,” the bench said, adding that the amendments to the Act could also be enforced right away.
The top court also ruled that the chief justice of India will have the final say in choosing an eminent jurist to be part of the selection committee that will appoint the Lokpal, according to Live Law. The panel will also include the prime minister, the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Lower House Speaker, besides the CJI.
A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Navin Sinha pronounced the ruling on a public interest litigation filed three years ago by NGO Common Cause. Represented by activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, the organisation had sought the appointment of a Lokpal and Lokayuktas in accordance with the amendments made to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, which was passed in 2013.
At the last hearing in the case on March 28, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Centre, had told the bench that a Lokpal cannot be appointed till Parliament passes the necessary legislation. “Lokpal cannot be appointed in the current scenario as amendments regarding the definition of the Leader of Opposition in the Lokpal Act are pending in Parliament. The judiciary cannot dictate the legislature on this issue,” he had said.
The Centre has held that the absence of a Leader of Opposition on the five-member selection committee has hindered the Lokpal’s appointment process. It has explained that the Congress does not have the required number of MPs in the Lok Sabha to appoint a leader of Opposition, which had delayed the anti-corruption ombudsman’s appointment.