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Lok Pal: Badal govt seeks time
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 22
The SAD-BJP coalition in Punjab today sought time from the Supreme Court to make its stand clear on a long-pending appeal of the state and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, filed during his earlier tenure on the question of his and his council of ministers’ powers to appoint the Lok Pal.

Punjab government’s standing counsel Arun Kumar Sinha told a Bench of Justices B.N. Agrawal, P.P. Naolekar and B. Sudershan Reddy that he needed to take instructions from the new government to make its stand clear and therefore the case be adjourned.

The court asked the government counsel whether he was talking about the instructions in terms of the petition becoming infructuous and reminded that the matter involved an important question of the appointment of Lok Pal.

At this Sinha said the new advocate-general would appear in the case and the Bench accordingly ordered that the case be listed for further hearing after four weeks.

The case had been pending in the apex court since 1999 when the then Punjab government, headed by Badal, had moved an appeal challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s verdict quashing the appointment of former High Court Judge H.S. Rai as the Lok Pal of the state to oversee corruption cases.

The High Court had passed the order on a petition by Congress leaders and former state minister Lal Singh, who alleged that the due procedure laid down under the Punjab Lokpal Act, 1996, was not followed in the appointment of Justice Rai. He had also alleged that Justice Rai was related to Badal and should have not been considered for the appointment.

Lal Singh’s counsel Bimal Roy Jad told the court that there were some other matters also pending relating to the orders passed by the Lok Pal during the earlier tenure of the Badal government.

Besides the state government, Badal himself had filed an appeal in his personal capacity in the case, which Lal Singh had challenged on the question of propriety, claiming that unless the Chief Minister was “personally interested” in the appointment there was no occasion for him to file a separate SLP.

On the other hand, Badal had raised the issue of Lok Pal ordering inquiry against Lal Singh in a corruption case pertaining to the alleged purchase of some “benami” properties in Patiala a decade ago and claimed that it was the reason for him to file a writ petition in the High Court against Justice Rai’s appointment.

Badal in his SLP said he had recommended the appointment of Justice Rai by fulfilling all conditions in consultation with the Vidhan Sabha Speaker as well as the High Court Chief Justice as required under the Lok Pal Act, The Act provides that only a former Supreme Court or a High Court judge will be eligible for appointment.

But Lal Singh in his affidavit has alleged that the Chief Minister had not moved any written proposal for arriving at the consensus as was required under the Act.

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