Cont.Pet.(C) No. 714 / 2018
Contempt Petition against the government failure to appoint Lokpal
The petition filed by Common Cause for appointment of Lokpal was disposed by the Supreme Court on April 27, 2017 holding that the Lokpal and Lokayutas Act, 2013 as it stands today was a perfectly workable legislation and there was no justification on the part of the Government to keep the enforcement of the said Act under suspension till the amendments, as proposed, were carried out.
Nine months since the judgment, the government had failed to appoint the Lokpal, hence a contempt application seeking the initiation of contempt proceedings against the executive for wilful and deliberate failure to fully comply with the aforementioned judgment of the Apex Court was filed by Common Cause.
This matter was taken up on February 23, 2018, when the AG informed the Court that steps under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 was under way and a meeting had been scheduled for March 1, 2018.
The SC directed that on March 5, 2018, an affidavit be filed by the Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Personnel & Training indicating the steps taken and proposed and listed the matter for March 6, 2018. During the hearing on March 6, 2018, the SC was informed by the AG that the selection committee for appointment of the Lokpal met on March 1, 2018 and decided to fill up the vacancy of an eminent jurist in the panel, which had fallen vacant after the demise of senior advocate P.P. Rao who was appointed as an eminent jurist in the panel.
On April 17, 2018, the Court asked the Center to make the appointment of the Lokpal at the earliest and to expedite the process.
On May 15, 2018, the Centre informed the Bench that it had appointed senoir advodate Mukul Rohtagi as an eminent jurist in the selection committee for appointment of Lokpal.
In the hearing on July 2, 2018, the Court asked the Centre to file an affidavit indicating a time-frame for the appointment of a Lokpal. The bench also ordered the Centre to mention in its status report the details of steps it will take to appoint the Lokpal. The Centre has 10 days to file its affidavit.
In the hearing on 17 July 2018 the Court was informed by the respondent that a meeting of the Selection Committee was convened on 19 July 2018 for the purpose of constituting a Search Committee. The respondents were directed to submit a report on the outcome of the meeting to the Court on or before 23 July 2018.
After the affidavit was submitted in the court by the government, the Court in an order dated 24 July 2018 held that the affidavit filed was wholly unsatisfactory and directed the government to file a fresh affidavit giving full particulars within four weeks.
On September 27, the Department of Personnel and Training notified the members of the Search Committee, headed by former SC judge Justice Ranjana P Desai. The Committee also includes as members:
According to the Selection Panel, the mandate for the formation of this committee was to comprise a minimum of seven people (including chairperson) with experience in anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, policy making, finance including insurance and banking, law and management, etc. Besides, 50% members of the committee were supposed to be from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Minorities and Women.
On January 4, 2019, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to place on a sworn affidavit, all the steps taken since September 2018 to set up a search committee for the Lokpal and to file it by January 17, 2019.
The Bench comprising of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul has said "You have to ensure on affidavit the steps taken on the issue of setting up of a search committee for the Lokpal".
The Bench asked the Attorney General K K Venugopal "what all have you done till date. So much time is being taken.".
The Bench further asked to "bring everything on record what you have done since September 2018".
The Centre said that the Search Committee has already been formed and they shall frame their own procedures for appointing the Lokpal.
The matter has been listed next on January 17, 2019.
Through RTI, Common Cause found that since the time the present government has come to power, the first meeting of the Selection Committee had taken place only in March, 2018 i.e. more than 45 months after the present government was formed. Also, before December 13, 2018, no meeting of the Search Committee had taken place. In addition to this, Common Cause had sought the minutes of the meeting, however, the same were not provided, citing the authorship of such documents vest in high level dignitaries.
On January 11, 2018, Common Cause has filed an IA, to place the information obtained on record.
On January 7, 2019, SC has directed the Search Committee to recommend a panel of names for the appointment of Lokpal by February 28.
Attorney General KK Venugopal told the bench that there were issues like lack of infrastructure and manpower due to which the Search Committee was not able to hold deliberations on the issue yet. The SC has also directed the Centre to provide the Search Committee with requisite infrastructure and manpower to enable it to complete its work.
The Counsel for Common Cause, Prashant Bhushan requested the Court to direct the Search Committee to make public minutes of every deliberation, along with the names submitted to the Selection Committee. The Court assured him that the moment the search committee submits the names on March 7, during the hearing, the same shall be given to him.
The matter will be heard next on March 7, 2019.