New Delhi, Feb 23: The Centre on Friday informed the Supreme Court that the process to appoint Lokpal (anti-corruption ombudsman) is underway and a meeting, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will be held on March 1 to discuss this. The submission was made during hearing on a contempt petition filed by Common Cause through advocate Prashant Bhushan for not implementing the April 2017 verdict of the apex court in appointing the Lokpal.

Attorney General KK Venugopal told a bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi that steps for appointing Lokpal have been taken and the selection panel, comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India (CJI), Speaker of Lok Sabha and leader of the largest opposition party, would hold a meeting on March 1 to discuss the issue. The apex court deferred the matter to March 6 and asked the Secretary of Department of Personnel and Training to file an affidavit about the “steps taken and proposed”.

“The Attorney General for India has submitted that steps under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 is under way and a meeting has been scheduled on March 1, 2018. The steps taken and proposed may be indicated in an affidavit of the Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Personnel and Training be filed on March 5, 2018, when the Court re-opens after the Holi holidays,” the bench noted in its order.

Speaking on the delay in the appointment of Lokpal, the Attorney General said that there was a delay in the process due to the death of senior advocate P P Rao, who was one of the members of the committee, last year. Earlier, the top court 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 the Parliament.

The court had said that the Act was an eminently workable piece of legislation and “does not create any bar to the enforcement of the provisions”. It had said 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 does not constitute legal hindrances or bar its enforcement.

The court had also said that such attempts for amendment cannot halt the operation and execution of the law which the executive in its wisdom has already given effect to and has brought into force by resorting to the provisions of the Act. The court had said that section 4(2) of the Act makes it clear that the appointment of Chairperson or a Member of the Lokpal will not become invalid merely because of the reason of any vacancy in the selection committee. (With PTI inputs)