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Amendment in Lokpal Bill pending before Parliament: Govt informs SC

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Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Ashok Bhushan that an amendment to the Lokpal Bill is likely to be taken up by Parliament in March.

Government today informed the Supreme Court that a proposed amendment in Lokpal Bill is pending before Parliament and is likely to be taken up in March. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Ashok Bhushan that an amendment to the Lokpal Bill is likely to be taken up by Parliament in March. Senior advocate Shanti Bhushan and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, said the Lokpal law has been passed after a long struggle and the government is doing nothing to make it functional.

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“Here is a law which was enacted three years ago after a long battle. It is the duty of the government and the court to ensure that the law is enforced,” Bhushan said.

The bench said it was listing the case for final hearing and posted the matter for March 28.

On December 7, the apex court had asked the government to place before it a copy of the report of a Parliamentary Standing Committee suggesting amendments to the Lokpal law and wanted to know about the changes required to make the anti-graft ombudsman functional.

Rohatgi had then told the bench that views of the apex court had been conveyed to the highest authority that it “cannot go on like this” and assured the bench that the process would be “expedited”.

He had said besides substituting LoP with the leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha in the law, there was a need to bring in more changes.

As per the provision, the largest opposition party has to have 10 per cent of total number of MPs in Lok Sabha to claim the post of LoP and. The amendment to this effect has been pending with Parliament, Rohatgi had said.

Earlier, the court had pulled up the government over delay in appointment of Lokpal, saying it should not allow the law to become a “dead letter”.

The appointment of the anti-corruption ombudsman has been hanging fire since the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, which received Presidential assent on January 1, 2014 because the legislation provided for the LoP to be on the selection committee.

But in the present Lok Sabha, the largest opposition party Congress does not have the required number of MPs for its leader to be designated as the Leader of Opposition.

Earlier, the court had said the requirement of LoP on the panel was “dispensable” and could be substituted with the leader of the largest opposition party.

In Lok Sabha, the largest opposition party Congress has only 44 members and lacks the requisite 10 per cent of total 545 seats, giving rise to the need to amend the Lokpal Act.

The law provides for selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, LoP in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a sitting SC judge nominated by the him, and an eminent jurist to be nominated by President of India on the basis of recommendations of first four members of selection panel.

The bench is hearing a petition filed by NGO Common Cause which has sought a direction to the Centre to make the appointment of chairperson and members of Lokpal as per the amended rules framed under Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.

The NGO in its plea has also sought a direction to the Centre to ensure that the procedure for selecting the chairperson and members of Lokpal must be transparent as envisaged under the Act.

“The inaction of the government in making the appointment of Lokpal arbitrary and unreasonable and hence violative of Article 14 of the Constitution,” the amended petition of the NGO said.

It also said that one of the ways to ensure total transparency in the selection process was that the panel of persons to be prepared by the search committee for consideration by the selection committee must be placed in public domain.

Read more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/amendment-in-lokpal-bill-pending-before-parliament-govt-to-sc-4522964/