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Centre informs SC that selection committee to meet on 1 March to deliberate on appointment of Lokpal

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday informed the Supreme Court that a meeting of the selection committee is scheduled to take place on 1 March to deliberate on the steps to be taken for the appointment of a Lokpal.

The committee would comprise of the prime minister, chief justice of India, Lok Sabha speaker, the leader of the largest opposition party and an eminent jurist, according to the attorney general.

The jurist would be appointed by the president on the recommendation of the selection committee, with the prime minister as its chairman.

 Centre informs SC that selection committee to meet on 1 March to deliberate on appointment of Lokpal

File image of the Supreme Court of India. Reuters

Venugopal said this to the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R Banumathi, which asked the Secretary — Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), to file an affidavit indicating the steps taken for the appointment of a Lokpal.

Asking the DoPT Secretary to file the affidavit by 5 March, the court fixed 6 March as the next date of hearing in the petition by NGO Common Cause.

The attorney general informed the court about the scheduled meeting of the committee in the course of the hearing of a contempt plea filed by the NGO.

The NGO had moved the contempt plea after the government did not act on the 27 April, 2017 judgment of the top court, holding that the "Act, as it stands today, is an eminently workable piece of legislation and there is no justification to keep the enforcement of the act under suspension till the amendments, as proposed, are carried out".

The court's observation came while addressing a question whether the Lokpal law, as it exists today, is so "unworkable" that it (court) should refuse its enforcement, notwithstanding that the Lokpal act had come into force by a 16 January, 2014, notification.

The Centre had flagged two hurdles in implementing the Lokpal law, saying that it provides that the selection panel should have the Leader of Opposition (LOP) as one of its members, but there is no recognised Leader of Opposition in the current 16th Lok Sabha.

The other hurdle it cited relates to the tenure of the eminent jurist to be appointed by the selection committee.

Referring to the provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, and the amendments the government wanted to bring, the judgment had said that Sub-Section (2) of Section 4 of the Lokpal Act says that the appointment of the chairperson or a member of the Lokpal will not become invalid merely because of the reason of any vacancy in the selection committee.

Extending this to the appointment of an eminent jurist by the selection panel, the court said: "If, at present, the LOP is not available, surely, the Chairperson and the other two Members of the Selection Committee, namely, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India or his nominee may proceed to appoint an eminent jurist as a Member of the Selection Committee under Section 4(1)(e) of the Act."

Speaking for the bench, Justice Gogoi said: "We also do not see any legal disability in a truncated selection committee to constitute a search committee for preparing a panel of persons for consideration for appointment as the chairperson and members of the Lokpal" and recommending the same to the president for appointment.

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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2018 17:53:44 IST