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The country’s near five-year-long wait for an anti-graft ombudsman – the Lokpal – may soon end with the Supreme Court setting a 10 day deadline for the Centre to inform it about a time-frame within which the anti-corruption watchdog will be appointed.

The order by the bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi comes months after the apex court pulled up the Narendra Modi government over the delay in appointment of a Lokpal – a rebuke that forced the Centre to finally appoint senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi as the “eminent jurist” to the high-powered Lokpal selection panel.

On Monday (July 2), Justices Gogoi and Banumathi directed the Centre to apprise it within 10 days about the time frame for appointing the Lokpal. The court granted 10 days to the the government for filing an affidavit detailing steps which are likely to be taken for appointing the ombudsman.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, placed before the bench written instructions which he had received from the government on the issue of appointment of Lokpal.

The instructions came during hearing of a contempt petition filed by NGO Common Cause which has sought the Supreme Court’s directives to the Centre for appointing the ombudsman at the earliest on the grounds that the Parliament had enacted the Lokpal legislation in 2013 but that the government had failed to make the necessary appointments to the body ever since.

The bench has posted the matter for hearing on July 17.

The Supreme Court had earlier said that there was no justification to keep the enforcement of the Lokpal Act suspended till the proposed amendments, including on the issue of the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha being a member of the Lokpal selection panel, were cleared by Parliament.

The Centre had on May 15 informed the apex court that senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi has been appointed as an eminent jurist in the selection committee for appointment of the anti-graft ombudsman Lokpal. However, Mallikarjun Kharge – Leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha – had boycotted a meeting of the Lokpal selection panel on grounds that he had been invited to it in the capacity of a “special invitee” but without any power to make binding suggestions and recommendations on the issue.

—India Legal Bureau

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