Lokpal law amendment may come in monsoon session, SC told

New Delhi,  The Central government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the Lokpal amendment bill, which recognises the leader of the single largest opposition party in Lok Sabha as the Leader of Opposition and will pave the way for operationalising the institution, may be taken up for consideration during the monsoon session of Parliament.

Telling the bench that government was not dragging its feet on taking up the Lokpal and Lokayuktas and Other Related Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Navin Sinha that the current session of Parliament is devoted to budget and “may be it (amendment bill) will be considered in the monsoon session”.

He told the court tha tthe selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India can’t nominate the fifth member – the eminent jurist – without the Leader of Opposition being there.

As the government said that it was seized of the issue and opposed any intervention by the court, the court reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions including one by society Common Cause seeking mandamus to the government to take steps for enforcing the law enacted i n 2013.

Citing the separation of powers under the Constitution, Rohatgi told the court that “there can’t be a mandamus to bring an Act into force because as parliament can’t ask how courts are functioning or a particular case be decided in a particular time frame” and similarly, courts can’t venture into the law-making province of legislature.

“Whether they pass, how they pass, how they do, whether they can pass in two minutes, is within the province of the parliament,” he stressed.

Rohatgi said that the amendment to treat the leader of the largest opposition party as Leader of Opposition for the purposes of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, was just one of the many amendments that are being sought to be made in the statute.

Earlier appearing for Common Cause, senior counsel Shanti Bhushan referred to different laws where leader of the largest opposition party is treated as Leader of Opposition for the purposes of the appointment of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s Director or even the Chief Vigilance Commissioner.

He pressed for a direction that in the absences of the Leader of the Opposition, the remaining three members – the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker and the Chief Justice of India should nominate the fifth member – the eminent jurist – so that the process for the appointment of Lokpal could start.

Buttressing the point advanced by Bhushan, another counsel Gopal Shankarnarayan drew the attention of the court to the passing of the amendment to Section 44 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, dealing with the declaration of assets by the public servants.

He said that in the case of the amendment, the government had the clear intention and it went ahead with it and asked how piecemeal amendment can be given effect to while the other amendments which, according to the government, are essential for operationalising the law are not being pushed by it.