Supreme Court again asks Govt about delay in Lokpal appointment, lame excuses...

Supreme Court again asks Govt about delay in Lokpal appointment, lame excuses the answer

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The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, came into force with effect from 16 January 2014. Now, we are in December 2016. So, almost 3 years are over. However, despite the above Act having come into force, Lokpal Chairperson and members are yet to be appointed. So, yesterday (7 December 2016), the Supreme Court yet again asked the Central Government as to why there is delay in appointment of Lokpal. The bench headed by the Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur and also comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao, pointedly asked the Government as to why Lokpal cannot be appointed. This happened in Common Cause A Registered Society vs. Union of India [W.P.(C) NO. 245/2014]. However, only lame excuses came from the Government to such question, because the Government cannot have a justifiable answer to this question.

The only ostensible reason for delay in appointment of Lokpal is that there is no leader of opposition in Lok Sabha at present, while he is required to be a part of the selection committee which would recommend names for appointment of Lokpal Chairperson and members. The relevant provision in the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act is reproduced as under:

“The Chairperson and Members shall be appointed by the President after obtaining the recommendations of a Selection Committee consisting of—

(a) the Prime Minister—Chairperson;

(b) the Speaker of the House of the People—Member;

(c) the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People—Member;

(d) the Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him—Member;

(e) one eminent jurist, as recommended by the chairperson and members referred to in clauses (a) to (d) above, to be nominated by the President—Member.”

However, the situation is not going to change in the remaining half-term of the present Lok Sabha since the strength of the main opposition party (Congress) is not going to change drastically to enable it to claim the post of Leader of Opposition. So, does it mean that during the remaining two and half years of the current Lok Sabha, there can be no selection committee for recommending names for Lokpal?

Well, the Government is supposed to have tabled an Amendment Bill in the Parliament for amending the said Act, for substituting the requirement of having the leader of opposition in the selection committee, with either the leader of opposition or the leader of largest opposition party in Lok Sabha. But, neither the Government nor the opposition is interested in passing such Amendment Bill and it is gathering dust in the Parliament for quite some time now. If the Government could muster strength for passing the GST related Constitution Amendment Bill, which requires a much larger majority in Parliament and also ratification by more than half of the state legislatures, and if it can get a large number of other Amendment Bills passed, then surely the Government can get this Amendment Bill also passed. However, nobody seems to be interested. Opposition also seems to be not interested in pressing the Government in this regard.

The next question then is why can’t an Ordinance be promulgated for this minor change needed in the Act? The Supreme Court asked this question yesterday. But, the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi simply says that Ordinance is not possible? But, why? There is no convincing answer.

On the last date in the above case, the Supreme Court had even offered that it could interpret the aforesaid provision as meaning that the leader of the largest party in Lok Sabha can be construed to include the leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha. But, the Government is not interested.

So, it is as clear as crystal. No political party wants Lokpal. It took more than 40 years to pass the Lokpal Act. Now, the political parties will make all possible efforts to ensure that its implementation is delayed as long as possible. Yes, blame game will surely continue between them to score brownie points over one-another.

Of course, this is not to suggest that Lokpal is panacea for all ills, or even for corruption, for that matter. I mean – it is not that corruption will suddenly disappear soon (or even in the medium or perhaps even in longer term) merely because Lokpal is appointed.

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