The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Centre for failing to set up a search committee to shortlist names for Lokpal. It asked the government to file a fresh affidavit on the matter within four weeks, reported Live Law.
“Having perused the affidavit all that we are inclined to say is that we are wholly unsatisfied and do not accept it,” a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, R Bhanumati and Navin Sinha said. “Let a fresh affidavit be filed within four weeks.”
The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan on behalf of NGO Common Cause. Bhushan said the Supreme Court itself should appoint a Lokpal under Article 142 of the Constitution.
“It is four-and-a-half years now since [the] Act came into being and it is clear that Centre has no intention to appoint a Lokpal,” Bhushan told the bench. “Only because the court [is] prodding, they are holding meetings and nothing comes out of it. Now only two ways. Either the court initiate contempt or itself appoint a Lokpal under Article 142. They are just dragging their feet when there is so much corruption in the country.”
But the bench rejected his demand with Justice Gogoi saying such a“situation has not come yet”.
At the last hearing on July 17, the bench had refused to issue any order after Attorney General KK Venugopal told it that the Lokpal selection committee would meet on July 19 to set up the search panel.
The selection committee is chaired by the prime minister and comprises the chief justice of India, Lok Sabha Speaker, the leader of the largest Opposition party and an eminent jurist. In May, the Centre said it had appointed senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi as the jurist on the panel.
Earlier on July 2, the Supreme Court had ordered the Centre to apprise it of a time frame for appointing the country’s anti-corruption ombudsman.
Centre blames Congress for delay in appointing Lokpal
Later on Tuesday, Union minister Jitendra Singh claimed that the Congress was responsible for the delay in appointing the Lokpal, as it did not win enough seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections for a leader of the Opposition to be appointed. The leader of the Opposition is one of the four members of the panel that appoints the anti-corruption ombudsman, Singh said, according to PTI.
A party has to win 10% of the seats in the lower house to become eligible to be the main Opposition party. However, the Congress won just 44 of the 545 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.
“The Congress party failed to get minimum seats,” Singh said during a debate on the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018 in the lower house. “We have made an amendment to include the leader of largest party in the Opposition to be a member of the panel that will select the Lokpal.”
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge had last week written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, rejecting another invitation to attend the Lokpal selection committee meeting. Kharge had said that the Lokpal panel had approved an amendment to include the leader of largest party in the Opposition in the selection committee, but the Centre had never brought the amendment before Parliament.