Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has opted out of attending a meeting on Thursday to appoint the Lokpal, calling the process a "travesty" by the Narendra Modi government and saying it denies attendees a voice, suggestions and participation.
He also wrote a two-page letter to the prime minister outlining his reasons for backing out. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted out the letter on Wednesday evening.
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) March 1, 2018
"The 'Leader of Opposition' cannot be substituted as a 'special invitee'. It's a matter of surprise that your government is choosing to adopt this route as a mere paper formality rather than seeking meaningful and constructive participation. It negates the letter and spirit of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013, in toto," Kharge wrote in the letter.
As per the Lokpal Act, only the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha is a member of the selection committee, and since Kharge is not the Leader of Opposition, he is not a part of the committee.
He alleged that it was a "concerted effort" to exclude the Opposition from the selection process to the most important anti-corruption watchdog. Having the Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha as a "special invitee" at the meeting, which would finalise an "eminent jurist" on the panel, would be tantamount to an "eyewash", Kharge wrote.
"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," he said.
Thursday's meeting, for which Prime Minister Modi, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan would also be in attendance, was called following the Supreme Court's directive to the Centre to immediately appoint a Lokayukta.
However, Kharge questioned the BJP's commitment to doing so. "Notwithstanding your rhetoric to fight corruption, the BJP government has chosen to not appoint a Lokpal for nearly four years. For anybody familiar with BJP's record in not establishing and preserving Lokayukta in Gujarat wouldn't come as a surprise," Kharge said.
"If your government is indeed serious about ensuring that the Lokpal is appointed with the sanctity it deserves, I would suggest that you bring in an ordinance in shape of the amending bill that is annexed herewith and place the same before Parliament," he added.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Mar 01, 2018 18:00 PM