Kharge turns down Centre's invitation to attend Lokpal meeting

Kharge turns down Centre's invitation to attend Lokpal meeting”

Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said not only had the government not appointed Lokpal but had also not passed the bill which would put the "leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha" in the Lokpal selection committee as required by the statute. "A perusal simpliciter of the Lokpal Act 2013, its intent and objective reflect that Leader of the Oppositon can not be substituted as a special invitee", Kharge said in his letter to Modi. ALSO READ: Process to appoint Lokpal going on; meeting on March 1: Centre to SC 2) "Govt violating the norms": According to Kharge, the government's move violates the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, in letter and in spirit.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kharge pointed out that he was invited to the meeting as a mere "special invitee" who would have no say in the selection.

Last month, the government told the Supreme Court that the leader of the single largest opposition party would be invited to the March 1 lokpal selection meeting. The meeting was scheduled for today in New Delhi where an "eminent jurist" was to be picked as Lokpal.

Subsequently, in February this year, the Supreme Court had, during the hearing of a PIL in the matter, asked the secretary of the DoPT to file an affidavit about the "steps taken and proposed" by the Centre to appoint the Lokpal.

"Conduct of your government only seeks to diminish the spirit and objective of appointment of Lokpal in as much as you seek to deny participation, voice and opinion of the opposition".

The senior Congress leader suggested that the government should bring an Ordinance for the Lokpal, if Modi was serious about setting up the anti-corruption body. The said amendment bill is pending in Parliament.

"Notwithstanding your repeated rhetoric to fight corruption, the BJP government has chosen to not appoint a Lokpal for almost four years", he wrote.

Kharge said this was not a surprise to anyone familiar with the BJP government's record in Gujarat "in not establishing and preserving the office of Lokayukta". This bill continues to languish for want of appropriate intent, commitment and objectivity on part of the government.

He was referring to the long tussle that the state government, then led by Modi, had with the governor over the appointment of anti-corruption watchdog. He said the Lokpal meet was reduced from a sacred procedure to a political presence.

After a delay of nearly 50 years, Parliament in 2013 - during the tenure of the Dr Manmohan Singh-led UPA government - approved a law to create the watchdog to look into charges of corruption against senior public functionaries.

Kharge could not get the status as the Congress could get only 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

The current Lok Sabha does not have a leader of Opposition because the Congress - the principal Opposition party - does not have enough members in the House.

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