Can't create Lokpal before monsoon session, Centre tells SC

Five years after the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption agitation shook the nation and its political class, the appointment of a Lokpal or anti-corruption watchdog is likely to be further delayed by at least another four months, with the Centre telling the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the Lokpal cannot be appointed until Parliament amends the existing law.

Appearing before a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi contended that the nine-member Lokpal could not be constituted as Parliament is still considering various amendments. He was responding to petitions seeking a direction to the Centre to appoint a Lokpal.

The petitioners said the centre was delaying the passage of the amended Lokpal law but Rohatgi contended that the court could not direct Parliament as to when it should pass a law and said that the amendments would be taken up only in the monsoon session.

"The Act was passed in 2013 but there are several lacunae in the law and it is not possible to appoint Lokpal now. We have proposed 20 amendments in the law on the basis of a Parliament standing committee report. The process of amendments will take time and Parliament may consider those amendments in the monsoon session," Rohatgi told the bench.

Referring to various proposed amendments, the attorney general and additional solicitor general Maninder Singh said the existing law makes the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) part of the search and selection committee but there is currently no LoP and the provision needs to be replaced by leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha. He said similar amendments were brought in other laws to replace LoP with leader of the largest opposition party.

When the bench, hearing a bunch of petitions, asked why it was taking time to appoint Lokpal, Rohatgi said the court could direct neither Parliament nor the government as to when and how the law should be amended and enforced.

"It is in process. The court cannot direct the government to bring in force any law. These are matters of legislation and the court cannot interfere in it and pass order," he said.

Rohatgi said there were many laws which were passed by Parliament but have not been enforced.  He cited the Delhi Rent Control Act which was passed by Parliament 30 years ago but had not been implemented so far.