SC pulls up govt for de­lay in ap­point­ment of Lok­pal

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Bhadra Sinha bhadra.sinha@hin­dus­tan­

The Supreme Court hauled up the govern­ment on Wed­nes­day for de­lay in ap­point­ing the coun­try’s first anti-cor­rup­tion om­buds­man, ask­ing why it was drag­ging its feet if it was “so com­mit­ted to cleans­ing cor­rup­tion.”

Par­lia­ment ap­proved a law to cre­ate an in­de­pen­dent an­ti­cor­rup­tion agency in 2013 after a de­lay of al­most 50 years, but the hir­ing of a fed­eral-level om­buds­man, or ‘Lok­pal’, to run it has been stuck on the ques­tion of who should be on the ap­point­ment panel.

“Don’t al­low Lok­pal to be­come a dead let­ter,” a bench headed by Chief Jus­tice TS Thakur told the govern­ment’s top pros­e­cu­tor at­tor­ney gen­eral MuKul Ro­hatgi.

“When you say the govern­ment is com­mit­ted to cleans­ing cor­rup­tion, then this (Lok­pal) is the step in the right di­rec­tion. Why should there be a feel­ing govern­ment is drag­ging the feet?”

The court’s re­buke could be seen as em­bar­rass­ing for Prime Minister Naren­dra Modi, who has made fight­ing cor­rup­tion a cor­ner stone of his pol­icy goals and, as part of which, abol­ished two high-value ban­knotes this month.

The top court warned that it might pass an or­der if Par­lia­ment does not leg­is­late quickly to en­able the ap­point­ment of the watch­dog, which is ex­pected to pre­vent cor­rup­tion in high places.

The hir­ing of the Lok­pal is held up on a tech­ni­cal­ity.

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