SC issues Notice On A Plea For Declaring Leader Of Single Largest Party As Leader Of Opposition In Appointment Committees

SC issues Notice On A Plea For Declaring Leader Of Single Largest Party As Leader Of Opposition In Appointment Committees

The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice SK Kaul has issued notice on a PIL seeking declaration that wherever the appointing committee includes the Leader of the Opposition, the same may be read to mean the leader of the single largest opposition party in that House.

The statutory appointing committees for the appointments of CBI Director, CVC, CIC etc has the Leader of Opposition has a member.

The PIL filed by the NGO Youth for Equality and argued by Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan also assails the constitutionality of the newly inserted Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which mandates sanction for investigation of cases against public servants. The Court has issued notice on this prayer as well.

Though the petitioner also sought a declaration that appointments of CVC, CBI Director and CIC under the RTI Act should be made unanimously by the Selection Committee, the bench headed by CJI declined to issue notice on this prayer.

It is stated in the petition that  in all cases where no Leader of the Opposition has been recognised, “the Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People” must be deemed to be the Leader of the single largest group in opposition of the Government in the House of the People. Lack of notification or invitation to such person must not be allowed to delay key institutional appointments.

Regarding the necessity for unanimity in decision, it is stated  "a candidate chosen without any consensus will always be viewed as being compromised and has too often in the recent past been found wanting. Such an appointment runs the risk of being challenged as in Centre for PIL v. Union of India, (2011) 4 SCC 1, and each such incident where an apparently partisan candidate is pushed through without consensus, damages the credibility of the institution".

The petition states that Section 17A is intended to give undue protection to public servants.

"Once public servants are afforded the protection of previous sanction at the stage of cognizance under Section 19 of the Act, there appears to be no justification to add yet another layer of protection right at the very threshold when it comes to even embarking on an enquiry or inquiry or investigation under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988", states the PIL.

Prayers 

i. Issue a writ of certiorari that would ensure that 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;

ii. Issue a writ in the nature of mandamus directing that wherever the appointing committee includes the Leader of the Opposition, the same may be read to mean the leader of the single largest opposition party in that House;

iii. Issue an appropriate writ quashing Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 as it is discriminatory, manifestly arbitrary and ultra vires Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India

Read Petition