The Supreme Court today sought response from the Centre on a plea that the leader of the single largest opposition party be treated as the Leader of the Opposition and be included in high-level committees involved in the appointment of heads of statutory bodies like Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Central Information Commission (CIC) and Lokpal.
The top court issued notice to the Centre and the four statutory bodies on the PIL seeking direction that wherever the appointing committee includes the Leader of the Opposition, the same might be read as to mean the leader of the single largest opposition party in that House.
The court also sought response from the Centre on the plea by 'Youth for Equality' NGO, seeking the quashing of section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act which provides a blanket protection to all public servants regardless of status from enquiry in graft cases.
The NGO contended that the amendment by which section 17A has been incorporated was discriminatory, manifestly arbitrary and ultra vires of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution as it requires sanction for initiating action against public servants.
A Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and SK Kaul, after a brief hearing, agreed to examine the two issues but declined to entertain the plea that sought decisions on appointment of the Director CBI, the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Chief Information Commissioner and the Lokpal be taken by unanimous vote of the appointing committee.
Advocate Gopal Shankarnaryan, appearing for the NGO, submitted that unfortunately, four of those statutory bodies -- the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the Central Information Commission (CIC), and the Lokpal -- have all been limited in their functioning and interfered with by virtue of overwhelming governmental control.
While challenging section 17A, the advocate traced the history of such protection given to the public servants which time and again has been held as unconstitutional by the top court.
The Centre appoints the CBI director on the recommendation of the committee consisting the Prime Minister as Chairperson and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India or Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him as Members.
The composition of the Selection Committee for the CVC comprises the Prime Minister as Chairperson and Minister of Home Affairs and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha as members.
CIC is appointed on the recommendation of the Committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Chairperson), the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
The Lokpal is appointed on the recommendation of the panel consisting of the Prime Minister-Chairperson, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him as Member and one eminent jurist, as recommended by the chairperson.
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