The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the selection committee for appointing a Lokpal met on March 1 and decided to first fill up the vacancy of an eminent jurist in the panel. Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi that the vacancy of an eminent jurist in the committee, which also includes the prime minister, would be done at the earliest. Senior advocate P P Rao was appointed as an eminent jurist in the panel but the post became vacant after he passed away last year. The bench posted the matter for further hearing on April 17.
On February 23, the Centre told the apex court that the process for appointing the anti-graft ombudsman Lokpal was going on. The court had asked the secretary of the Department of Personnel and Training to file an affidavit about the “steps taken and proposed”. The bench was hearing a contempt petition filed by the NGO Common Cause, which has raised the issue of non-appointment of a Lokpal despite the apex court’s verdict of April 27 last year.
The top court, in its last year’s verdict, said there was no justification to keep the enforcement of Lokpal Act suspended till the proposed amendments, including on the issue of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, were cleared by the Parliament. It said the Act was an eminently workable piece of legislation and “does not create any bar to the enforcement of the provisions”.
It said the amendments proposed to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, and the views of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, were attempts to streamline the working of the Act and does not constitute legal hindrances or bar its enforcement. The court had also said that such attempts for an amendment cannot halt the operation and execution of the law, which the executive in its wisdom has already given effect to and brought into force by resorting to the provisions of the Act.
The judgment had come on a plea by the NGO and others seeking immediate appointment of Lokpal in the country. The court had said that section 4(2) of the Act makes it clear that the appointment of chairperson or a member of the Lokpal will not become invalid merely because of a vacancy in the selection committee.