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Supreme Court orders appointment of Lokpal
Making a case for an early appointment of Lokpal, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Centre's argument that the process of appointing a Lokpal had been delayed because of the absence of a leader of Opposition (LoP).

As per the existing rules, the LoP ought to be part of the selection committee for Lokpal.

The SC said that appointment of Lokpal and its members by a selection panel that does not include the LoP, would still be perfectly valid under the existing law.

The Centre had been delaying the appointment of the Lokpal citing lack of LoP in the selection committee. As per the present rules, a party would be recognised as "opposition" only if has at least one-tenth strength in Lok Sabha. A number that no opposition party presently has in in Lok Sabha.

A bill to include the leader of the largest opposition party in the selection panel in case there is no LoP has been pending in Parliament. The Central government had argued that the Lokpal should not be appointed until Parliament passed the bill.

However, the court rejected this argument.

"The Act, as it stands today (without the proposed amendment to include the leader of the largest political party in Lokpal selection panel), is an eminently workable piece of legislation and there is no justification to keep enforcement of the Act under suspension till the amendments, as proposed, are carried out," a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Naveen Sinha said.

The selection committee of Lokpal comprises of the PM, the Chief Justice of India or an SC judge nominated by him, LoP, Lok Sabha Speaker and an eminent jurist to be selected by the first four members of the selection panel.

The court accepted the arguments of advocates Shanti Bhushan and Gopal Shankaranarayanan, who said that the Lokpal could be appointed even without the amendment being in place. The advocates also alleged that the Centre was using pendency of the bill as an excuse to delay the appointment of the Lokpal..

"If, at present, the LoP is not available, surely, the chairperson and other two members of the selection committee, namely, the Speaker of Lok Sabha and the CJI 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," Justice Gogoi, who wrote the 31-page judgment, 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 chairperson and members of Lokpal."

The SC said efforts to amend the Act to include the leader of the largest Opposition party in the selection panel was at best an attempt to streamline the working of the Act.

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