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Lokpal law as it stands is workable legislation: SC

IANS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court said on Thursday that the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, as it stands today is "workable" legislation and there is no "justification" to hold it back till the proposed amendments are effected.

"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," said the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Navin Sinha in their judgment.

The court said this while addressing a question whether the Lokpal law as it existed today was so "unworkable" that it (court) should refuse its enforcement notwithstanding that the Lokpal Act had come into force by January 16, 2014, notification.

While holding that there were no impediments in enforcing the Lokpal law as it stood, the court dismissed a plea seeking primacy of the Chief Justice of India in the selection of the Lokpal.

The top court's verdict on Thursday put the ball in the government's court which was holding back the enforcement of the law on grounds that there were several amendments to be made in its existing form.

One of the hurdles being that the existing Lokpal says that the selection panel should have Leader of Opposition as one of its members but there is no recognised leader of opposition in the current 16th Lok Sabha.

The other was the tenure of the eminent jurist to be appointed by the selection committee comprising Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Lok Sabha Speaker and the Chief Justice of India or his nominee.

Referring to the provisions of the existing Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, and the proposed amendments, the judgment said that Sub-Section (2) of the Section 4 of the Lokpal Act says that the appointment of 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 in 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.

The proposed amendments to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, the court said would be "clarificatory and will not amount to an attempt to cure a shortcoming in the Act which is proving to be an inhibition in law to the appointment of the Chairperson/ Members of the Lokpal".

Not accepting the submission that court should read down certain provisions so that the Lokpal Law could be enforced, the court said: "Reading down a statute to make it workable in a situation where an exercise of amendment of the law is pending will not be justified either."

"A perception, however, strong of the imminent need of the law en-grafted in the Act and its beneficial effects on the citizenry of a democratic country, by itself, will not permit the Court to overstep its jurisdiction. Judicial discipline must caution the Court against such an approach", the judgment said refusing to interfere with legislative prices of amending the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.