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Kharge refuses to attend Lokpal selection meeting as special invitee

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Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge says his presence in the meeting without voting right is mere eyewash.

New Delhi: Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has declined to attend a meeting of the Lokpal selection committee as a ‘special invitee’, saying his presence without voting right would be a “mere eyewash”.

Kharge had on 22 February received an office memorandum from the department of personnel & training, asking him to attend the meeting to be held Thursday as a ‘special invitee’.

“My mere presence as a ‘special invitee’ without rights of participation, recording of opinion and voting would be a mere eyewash, ostensibly aimed at showcasing the participation of opposition in the selection process,” Kharge wrote in his letter to the PM Modi.

“A perusal simplicitor of the Lokpal Act 2013; its intent and objective reflects that Leader of Opposition cannot be substituted as ‘special invitee’. It is a matter of surprise that your government is choosing to adopt this route as a mere paper formality rather than seek any meaningful and constructive participation,” the letter read.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 mandates that the selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal shall be through a selection committee comprising Prime Minister, Speaker of Lok Sabha, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by CJI, eminent jurist to be nominated by the President of India on the basis of recommendations of the first four members of the selection committee.

Since the government hasn’t granted a leader of opposition status to Kharge, it brought an amendment to the Lokpal Act in December 2014 to substitute ‘Leader of Opposition’ with ‘leader of the single largest party’ in the selection committee.

“I understand that even the select committee of Parliament had put its seal of approval on the amending bill, yet the government has failed to introduce and pass it,” said Kharge.

On 30 January, ThePrint had reported that a group of ministers led by Rajnath Singh has cleared a proposal to appoint a Lokpal and that the file is with the PMO for approval.

Sources told ThePrint that internal discussions were on within the Congress party after Kharge had received the letter last week. Senior party leaders even spoke to leaders of other opposition parties to take them into confidence before taking a final decision on the matter.

The Congress and other parties will jointly raise this issue in Parliament once the budget session resumes on 5 March. They would demand to bring in an amendment in the house to replace the term ‘leader of opposition’ with ‘leader of ‘single largest party’.

 

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