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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

Snubbed twice, Modi govt reaches out to Congress on Lokpal selection meeting

The government reached out to Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge asking him to suggest a date for meeting to discuss appointment of Lokpal.

india Updated: Jul 07, 2018 09:56 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Moushumi Das Gupta and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has twice boycotted the meeting of the Lokpal selection committee.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has twice boycotted the meeting of the Lokpal selection committee.(PTI File Photo)

With the Supreme Court seeking a timeframe for the appointment of the Lokpal by July 17, the government has accelerated the process and reached out to Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, asking him to suggest a date for a meeting to discuss the anti-corruption ombudsman’s appointment, two senior government functionaries familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Kharge had twice in the past – March 1 and April 10 -- boycotted the meetings of the Lokpal selection committee on the grounds that the government invited him as a “special invitee”, and not as leader of the opposition, solely with the “intention of excluding the Opposition’s opinion” in the appointment process.

On both the occasions, Kharge, in his letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleged that the government had not accorded importance to the issue and its “double standards” stood exposed.

He claimed that the process of appointing the Lokpal will be vitiated if the voice of the Opposition was not included.

To avoid a repeat of such a situation, the government this time is taking steps to ensure Kharge’s presence at the meeting.

“The selection panel is likely to meet next week. But the date has not been finalised yet. As of now, we have written to the panel members asking them to suggest a date convenient to them,” a government functionary said on condition of anonymity.

The five-member panel includes the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist.

Kharge, however, is yet to respond to the communication, the second government functionary said, also requesting anonymity.

The government’s move came after the Supreme Court expressed its displeasure on Monday over the delay in appointing the Lokpal.

The top court directed the government to file an affidavit within the next 10 days (by July 17), specifying the steps it proposes to take and also specify a timeframe by which the Lokpal will be appointed.

The SChad in February rejected the government’s argument that the appointment had been stalled as certain amendments, including substituting the ‘Leader of the Opposition’ with the ‘Leader of the Single Largest Opposition Party’ to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act were pending before Parliament.

The SC is hearing a contempt petition filed by NGO Common Cause against the Centre for failing to appoint the Lokpal despite the apex court’s verdict on April 27 last year.