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Tuesday 18 February 2020

Kharge refuses to be ‘special invitee’ to attend meeting to select Lokpal

Kharge says that the process of appointment defeats the intent to honour the letter and spirit of the Lokpal Act

New Delhi: Senior Congress leader and Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi declining the invitation to attend the meeting on Tuesday of the selection committee for the appointment of the Lokpal as a ‘special invitee’. Kharge says that the process of appointment defeats the intent to honour the letter and spirit of the Lokpal Act.

In his letter to the PM, Kharge said, “Inviting the leader of the largest opposition party as a special invitee is done with the singular intention of excluding the opinion of the opposition from the selection process of the Lokpal and that the ‘process of the appointment of the Lokpal would be vitiated if the voice of the opposition is not included.”

“Under such circumstances, I must again respectfully decline the invite as ‘special invitee’ to prevent any dilution in the letter and spirit of the Lokpal Act, 2013,” he said.

“The Government is well aware that there is no provision in the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act for a Special invitee to be a member of the selection committee. An invitation as ‘special invitee’ without rights of participation, recording of opinion, and voting in the procedure is only to mislead the Nation and the people, rather than sincerely seeking the participation and opinion of the opposition.”

“Therefore, to participate in the charade while your government runs roughshod over the intent and spirit of the Lokpal act would amount to dereliction of my constitutional duty,” Kharge said in his letter to the PM.

Charging the Union government of not amending the Lokpal Act to include the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha as a member of the selection committee under section 4 (1) of the said Act, Kharge said, “The people of our nation should know that this government has wasted four previous years in the fight against corruption by not amending the Lokpal Act to include the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha as a member of the selection committee under section 4 (10) of the Act.”

“This would have established the bona fides of this government in fighting corruption before the people. The Government double standards in the matter stand exposed by the fact that a similar amendment was made to the Delhi special police establishment Act in 2014 itself where a leader of the single largest Opposition party was made a member of the selection committee governing the appointment of the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.”

Alleging that the process of appointment of the Lokpal has not been accorded the same degree of importance by the government as appointment of the CBI director, Kharge said, “You would be aware that the amendment bills to the Lokayukta Act to include the leader of the single largest opposition party in the selection committee were moved and even approved by the select committee. Yet, till date, your government has never bothered to list the same for debate or voting. It is clear that the current exercise is merely a perfunctory gesture to assuage the letter of the Supreme Court directions.”

“Having an intent and esteem to the principles enshrined in the Lokpal Act, the government could have amended the act to include the leader of the single largest opposition party in the selection committee. The whole Nation watched the Finance Bill being passed without hesitation despite repeated disruptions of Parliament in the second half of the budget sessions that were entirely stage-managed by this government. This clearly shows that Parliamentary processes are not a sacred duty to be discharged but an inconvenience that must be managed.”

“The repeated intent of the government in the matter both in the supreme court and now during the process of appointment shows defeats the intent to honour the letter and spirit of the Lokpal Act. The process of appointment of the Lokpal under such circumstances would be vitiated if the voice of the Opposition is not included.”

“If the Government is indeed serious about the appointment of the Lokpal I again suggest to the government to bring in the necessary amendment by way of an ordinance to include the voice of the Opposition in this process,”‘ Kharge said. Earlier in February too, Kharge had declined an invite to attend the 1 March meeting of the Lokpal selection committee on similar grounds.

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