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OBJECTING TO its leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, being called as a “special invitee”, the Congress boycotted the meeting of the Lokpal Selection Committee on Thursday. “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 said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Indian Express reported on Thursday that the Congress was weighing its options on Kharge attending the meeting of the panel — comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and Lok Sabha Speaker — as a special invitee, as it did not want him to be a mere spectator at the meeting.
“At the outset, let me state on behalf of myself, my party and the entire Opposition, that the ‘special invitee invitation’ is a concerted effort to exclude the independent voice of the Opposition altogether from the selection process of the most important anti-corruption watchdog. It negates the letter and spirit of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013 in toto. A perusal simpliciter of the Lokpal Act 2013, its intent and objective reflect that Leader of the Oppositon cannot be substituted as a special invitee,” Kharge said in his letter to Modi.
“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,” he wrote.
Kharge pointed out that the government had amended various statutes like the Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Bill to substitute the provision regarding “Leader of the Opposition” with the “Leader of the single largest party”.
Speaking to reporters, Kharge said there was no provision for a “special invitee” in the Lokpal Act, and added that the government wanted to “save its face” because the Supreme Court had directed it to implement the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act and appoint a Lokpal.
He raised the point in his letter too, saying the meeting had been convened “to satisfy the order of the Supreme Court on February 2”. “The 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,” he wrote.
“Notwithstanding your repeated rhetoric to fight corruption, the BJP government has chosen to not appoint a Lokpal for nearly four years,” he wrote. “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 the shape of the amending Bill that is annexed here and place the same before Parliament as it reopens in March 2018,” he wrote.
“In these circumstances, I must respectfully decline the invite as special invitee to uphold the inviolability of the Lokpal Act 2013, as the current proceedings have reduced a sacred procedure to a political pretence. I must end by reminding you about our solemn duty to never permit dilution of the provisions of the Lokpal Act which was enacted with hopes and aspirations of millions of Indians as the highest body to fight graft and ensure accountability,” he wrote.