The process to appoint the Lokpal – the anti-corruption ombudsman – is underway and a selection committee meeting has been scheduled for March 1, the government told the Supreme Court on Friday, PTI reported.
The court was hearing a contempt plea filed by NGO Common Causes, which said the government was yet to appoint the Lokpal even 10 months after the Supreme Court directed it to do so on April 27, 2017.
The government also told the court on Friday that the leader of the single largest party in opposition will attend the selection committee meeting – a significant announcement as the government has previously cited this as a reason for not appointing the Lokpal.
According to the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013, the selection committee that makes the appointment should comprise the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist they chose. The 16th Lok Sabha, however, does not have an Opposition leader as the Congress did not get the required 10% membership.
The government has contended since that Lokpal appointments could not be made until the law is amended – to replace the Leader of Opposition with the leader of the single largest party in opposition.
The Supreme Court, however, in its April 2017 judgement said the amendment was not necessary to make the appointments, and that attempts for the amendment could not stop the law from being executed.
During the hearing on Friday, Attorney-General KK Venugopal told the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R Banumathi that the meeting will be attended by the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Chief Justice of India and the single largest opposition party leader, The Hindu reported.
Venugopal also said there was a delay in the process after the death of senior advocate PP Rao, who was one of the members of the committee, last year.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, said the single largest opposition party leader would attend as a “special invitee”.
Justice Gogoi then asked the government to update the court about the process in an affidavit on March 5, and posted the next hearing for March 6.