More harm than good

Congress leader not attending a meeting on Lokpal will cause more delay in its appointment

GN Bureau | March 1, 2018


#Lokpal   #Congress   #Mallikarjun Kharge   #Narendra Modi  
Illustration: Ashish Asthana
Illustration: Ashish Asthana

Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, has opted out of a meeting on the appointment of the Lokpal, a move that may end up further delaying the process for the country getting an anti-corruption watchdog.

Kharge has written to prime minister Narendra Modi stating that he will not be attending the meeting on the appointment of a Lokpal wherein he has been invited as a ‘special invitee’.

“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,” Kharge said in his letter, reported Indian Express.

He also questioned the government as to why the appointment has been delayed for four years.

However, not participating in the meeting will give an opportunity to the government to say that the opposition had not taken part in the process, delaying the appointment.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 was passed during the term of the Congress-led UPA and it came into force on January 16, 2014. Since then there has been no headway even as the term of the NDA government is drawing to a close, with the general elections expected to take place in 2019, if not earlier.

Even the Supreme Court had taken the government to task for the delay in appointing the country’s first anti-corruption ombudsman.

On November 23, 2016, the apex court asked why the government was dragging its feet if it was “so committed to cleansing corruption.”

The Lokpal issue is currently stuck on who should be on the appointment panel.

“Don’t allow Lokpal to become a dead letter,” a bench headed by then chief justice TS Thakur told the government’s top prosecutor, reported Hindustan Times.

“When you say the government is committed to cleansing corruption, then this (Lokpal) is the step in the right direction. Why should there be a feeling government is dragging the feet?”, it added.

It looks as if the situation in Delhi is similar to the situation in Gujarat where the Lokayukta too faced hiccups.

On Sep 3, 2013, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan said the Gujarat government, then led by Narendra Modi, has been against the transparency of the position of the Lokayukta in the state, and cited the events leading to Justice RA Mehta’s resignation from the position as an example.

 “For 10 years, Modi has not allowed a Lokayukta to be appointed in Gujarat. Justice Mehta was nominated by the chief justice but he fought this tooth and nail right up to the Supreme Court, filing a review petition and then a curative petition. Eventually, Justice Mehta resigned in frustration,” Bhushan said, reported DNA.

“Now, Modi has amended the Lokayukta Act of Gujarat in a manner to make the Lokayukta totally useless. Now, the Lokayukta will be appointed essentially by the government. The Lokayukta will have no power of investigation against anybody who the government does not want him to investigate,” he added.


 

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