The Supreme Court on Monday directed the centre to apprise it within 10 days about the time frame for steps to be taken to appoint anti-graft ombudsman Lokpal in the country.
A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi said this after Attorney General K K Venugopal, who placed before it the written instructions which he had received from the government and said that the Lokpal selection committee would meet soon.
The apex court asked the centre to file within 10 days an affidavit indicating the steps which were likely to be taken for appointing the Lokpal and also the time frame.
When the attorney general referred to the relevant paragraphs of the written instructions, the bench said, "We would like the concerned officer to say on affidavit whatever he wants to say".
Senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause which has filed a contempt petition raising the issue of non-appointment of Lokpal despite the apex court's judgement of April 27 last year, said that even after four-and-a-half years, the anti-graft ombudsman has not been appointed.
"The time has come when the Supreme Court should exercise its powers under Article 142 (related to enforcement of decrees and orders of the apex court) to appoint the Lokpal till such time the Lokpal is not appointed by the government," he said.
The bench, however, said that before passing any order in the matter, it would like to have an affidavit in this regard by the competent authority in the government.
"Before passing any order, we would like the competent authority in the Union of India to place before us on affidavit the details of steps which are likely to be taken for appointment of Lokpal, indicating the time frame during which the steps of appointment would be taken," the bench said.
The bench posted the matter for hearing on July 17 and asked the centre to file an affidavit within 10 days.
On May 15, the centre had told the apex court that senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi has been appointed as an eminent jurist in the selection committee for appointment of Lokpal.
Rohatgi was appointed the Attorney General of India on June 19, 2014, soon after the Narendra Modi government assumed power in May. He quit the post in June last year.
The post of eminent jurist in the Lokpal selection panel was lying vacant since the death of senior advocate P P Rao on September 11 last year.
The committee comprises the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India, Lok Sabha Speaker, the leader of the largest opposition party and an eminent jurist.
The centre had earlier told the court that the selection committee has decided to first fill the vacancy of eminent jurist in the Lokpal selection panel, before taking further action on appointment of the ombudsman.
The apex court, in its last year's verdict, 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 Parliament.
It had said the act was an eminently workable piece of legislation and "does not create any bar to the enforcement of provisions".
The top court had also said that 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 did not constitute legal hindrances or bar its enforcement.