Mukul Rohatgi appointed in Lokpal selection panel: Govt to SC

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New Delhi, May 15 (PTI): The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi has been appointed as an eminent jurist in the selection committee for appointment of anti-graft ombudsman Lokpal.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi that the decision to appoint Rohatgi as an eminent jurist in the selection committee, headed by the Prime Minister, was taken on May 11.

Rohatgi was appointed the Attorney General of India on June 19, 2014, soon after the Narendra Modi government assumed power in May. He quit the post in June last year.

The post of eminent jurist in the Lokpal selection panel was lying vacant since the death of senior advocate P P Rao on September 11, 2017. The committee comprises the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India, Lok Sabha Speaker, the leader of the largest opposition party and an eminent jurist.

The bench noted in its order that the next step required to be taken by the selection committee would be to constitute a search committee.

“Thereafter the search committee would be required to recommend persons for the appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, which again will be considered by the selection committee,” the bench noted in its order.

The apex court, while noting that it had passed a verdict on April 27 last year, said that “a period of over a year has lapsed in the meantime”.

“However, having regard to the fact that the selection committee comprises of high constitutional functionaries, we do not consider it appropriate to pass any direction for the completion of the process of appointment of Lokpal within a particular time frame,” the bench said.

“Rather, we are of the view that the matter should be left to the wisdom of the high functionaries who constitute the said selection committee. Needless to say, the court would expect the said functionaries to act in the matter in a suitable manner and within an appropriate time frame,” the court said and posted the matter for hearing on July 2.

The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by NGO Common Cause, which had raised the issue of non-appointment of the ombudsman despite the apex court’s verdict of April 27 last year.

During his three-year stint as the Attorney General of the country, Rohatgi had argued many contentious matters like the challenge to National Judicial Appointments Commission Act on appointment of judges for the higher judiciary.

He had also defended the government, which was in a tussle with the Supreme Court Collegium, on the appointment of judges for higher judiciary.

Rohatgi had also led a team of lawyers which had participated in the pre-dawn hearing in the apex court to oppose any relief to Yakub Memon, the lone death row convict in 1993 Mumbai blasts case. He had represented Anil Ambani in the top court in the gas dispute case between the Ambani brothers.

The Centre had earlier told the court that the selection committee has decided to first fill the vacancy of eminent jurist in the Lokpal selection panel before taking further action on appointment of the ombudsman.

The apex court, in its last year’s verdict, had said there was no justification to keep the enforcement of Lokpal Act suspended till the proposed amendments, including on the issue of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, were cleared by Parliament.

It had said the Act was an eminently workable piece of legislation and “does not create any bar to the enforcement of provisions”.

The top court had also said that the amendments proposed to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, and the views of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, were attempts to streamline the working of the Act and did not constitute legal hindrances or bar its enforcement.

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