Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge tells Manoj C G that the appointment of the Lokpal could not have been made since the government had not legally set up the selection committee:
The government has set up the Lokpal. What is your reaction since you had repeatedly boycotted the meeting of the Lokpal selection committee, objecting to the government inviting you as a special invitee?
The Lokpal Act says the Lokpal Selection Committee should be constituted with the Leader of the Opposition as one of the members. There is no opposition party member. What they could have done…they could have amended the Lokpal Act. And in that they could have mentioned the leader of the single largest party. Leader of the Opposition or leader of the single largest party…these two words were required. They did not do it… You have not constituted the committee itself properly. When there is no legally constituted committee, it is my view — and it is both personal and legal — that the appointment could not have been made. The provision is that even if one member is absent, they can decide. So (even if) any member (is) absent (that) will not prevent them from appointing the Lokpal. Here, the question is (that) the committee itself was not constituted. I was invited as a special invitee. Where is the provision for a special invitee in the Act? Let them tell. They are saying we had sent letters so many times. For what? I should have some legal status in the committee. That was not done. So therefore I did not go.
You said without the legally constituted committee in place the appointment could not have been made. So is the appointment valid or invalid?
I am posing this question to everyone. I am asking this question to the government. You have not constituted the committee as per the Act. So, therefore, my attending the meeting does not arise. I had also repeatedly pointed out to them: amend the Bill, either bring it in Parliament and get it passed or issue an ordinance. They issued so many ordinances in four years. What prevented them from amending this Act? And this also when they have appointed…after elections are announced. The process of elections have already begun. I can’t say even fag end. Fag end means before elections…. During election period they just want to tell the people we have fulfilled the promise. I don’t have any personal opinion about the appointment because…eminent jurist they can appoint. They know the track record and everything. I don’t want to comment on those things. It will be unfair on my part if I say something on appointment. But I am questioning the government why it had not taken the decision (to appoint) one year, two years, three years or four years before.
So you are questioning the timing as well?
This (appointment) is just to hoodwink the people. When the Election Commission has already notified the elections, you are appointing a Lokpal. And that too willingly you are not appointing. Because the Supreme Court has pressured, the judiciary is after you, so Modiji has for the sake of it made the appointment. Anyway, election will be over in 40 days. And the Constitution…setting up office and all will take one or two months. So steps have been taken to appoint Lokpal because of the judicial pressure. It has not come from their heart or with commitment.
The technicalities that you have pointed out…does it give you the ground to approach the court challenging the decision?
You all should examine. The Act is clear. You first constitute the committee and in the committee headed by the Prime Minister, the members are the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by him and one eminent jurist. If any member is not available that is an incomplete committee. When it is an incomplete committee, that cannot function….In my view, the appointment is done out of pressure from the judiciary. We should thank the judiciary and not the government. The Supreme Court had taken it seriously and it is with their pressure it has happened.