Lokpal meet: Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge resents ‘special invitee’ tag, rejects PM Modi’s invite
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mallikarjun Kharge, who was asked to be a “special invitee,” said the invitation negated the letter and spirit of the lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.Updated: Mar 01, 2018 22:42 IST
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has declined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to a lokpal selection committee meeting, saying the “special invitee” status would not allow him to contribute to the discussion over the appointment of the anti-corruption watchdog.
Apart from the Prime Minister, Thursday’s high-powered meeting will be attended by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
“My mere presence as a special invitee without rights of participation, recording of opinion and voting would be a mere eyewash,” the Congress leader in the Lok Sabha said in a letter to Modi that was initially dated March 28, 2018 and later corrected to February 28.
Asking him to be a special invitee was against the lokpal and lokayuktas act, 2013, as the objective of the law reflected that the leader of the opposition couldn’t be substituted as a special invitee, the 75-year-old leader said.
“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.
After a delay of almost 50 years, Parliament in 2013 approved a law to create the watchdog to look into charges of corruption against senior public functionaries but the lokpal selection has been stuck over who should be on the panel.
The law requires a leader of the opposition to be member of the selection committee.
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 assurance came after the court had in April 2017 asked the government to immediately appoint a lokpal, rejecting its argument certain amendments, including substituting the leader of the opposition with the leader of the single largest opposition party, to the lokpal act were pending with Parliament.
The largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha has to have at least 10% of the House’s strength – 54 out of the 543 seats – to be eligible for the post of leader of the opposition.
Kharge could not get the status as the Congress could get only 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. At present, the party has 48 members with four byelections going in its favour.