Kharge again declines invitation to attend meeting of Lokpal Selection Committee

NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, March 15, 2019

Mallikarjun Kharge, the leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, has, for the seventh time, turned down an invitation to attend a meeting of the Lokpal Selection Committee because he had been invited as a "Special Invitee".
The Selection Committee was due to meet today to begin the process of choosing a Lokpal, or anti-corruption ombudsman.
"A 'Special Invitee' would not have any rights of participation in the process of selection of the Lokpal and I cannot accept the opposition being made voiceless in a critical matter," he wrote in a letter dated March 14 to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Since there is no provision under section 4 of the Lokpal Act, 2013 for a Special Invitee to be a part of the Selection Committee or attend these meetings, I am once again forced to respectfully decline this invitation," he said.
In his letter, Kharge recalled that he had written in detail to Modi ahead of all the six previous meetings of the committee since February 28, 2018 regarding his objections to being invited as a "Special Invitee".
"Since 2014, the Government has not made any attempt to amend the relevant provisions of the Lokpal Act to include the Leader of the Single Largest Party in the Opposition to  be a member of the Selection Committee.
"You are well aware that nothing stops the Government from appointing a Lokpal even in the absence of the Leader of Opposition under Section 4(2) of the Lokpal Act.
"Despite this, the government and its ministers have repeatedly used my refusal to attend  the meetings as a special invitee as an excuse for not appointing a Lokpal over the last 5 years. However, the fact remains that  whatever tardy progress the government has made has only been under the pressure of the Supreme Court.
"The fact that all meetings have been  held as scheduled and a search committee was formed that has shortlisted names for the  Lokpal  shows that the intention of the government was only to exclude the opposition from this crucial process.
"By excluding the opposition, this process is being vitiated and I would like to caution the government that anyone selected through  this one-sided process may  decline this position," he added.
Under the Lokpal Act, the members of the Lokpal at the Centre shall be  appointed by the President on the basis of the recommendations of the Selection Committee.
The Selection Committee for the Lokpal shall comprise the Prime Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition in the Lo Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist nominated by the President.
The Congress won only 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and, while it was the single largest party in the opposition, it did not have the required 10 per cent of the strength of the house (55) to qualify for the position of Leader of the Opposition. This, in turn, created a problem in the composition of committees which choose candidates for posts like the Lokpal or the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
In the case of the CBI Director, the government has amended the law to include the leader of the largest opposition party in the selection committee in a situation where there is no designated Leader of the Opposition. But this has not been done so far in the case of the Selection Committee for the Lokpal.

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