M A I N   N E W S

Halt move to appoint Lokpal, says BJP
Jaitley: UPA’s unholy haste will destroy Lokpal’s credibility; appointment will damage PM’s reputation
R Sedhuraman
Tribune News Service

What BJP says
Twenty-six days remain for the declaration of the election results and the formation of a new government
It will be a gross political impropriety and a violation of the model code of conduct if the UPA government rushes through the appointment of Lokpal at this stage
Such unholy haste will destroy the credibility of the Lokpal even before it is formed. The procedure should be stopped immediately

New Delhi, April 20
Mid-way through the Lok Sabha elections, the UPA’s move to go ahead with the appointment of the first Lokpal to effectively deal with corruption has met with stiff resistance from the BJP with its Rajya Sabha leader Arun Jaitley today questioning the government’s “unholy haste” on the issue.

“This will destroy the credibility of the Lokpal even before it is formed,” Jaitley wrote on his blog. The UPA rushing through with the appointment of the ombudsman amounted to gross political impropriety and a violation of the Election Commission’s model code of conduct. Further, the procedure was legally suspect, the BJP leader said.

He was responding to reports that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had called a meeting of the Lokpal selection committee on April 27-28 to fill vacancies in the Lokpal search committee following refusal by former Supreme Court Judge KT Thomas to head the panel and eminent jurist Fali S Nariman, too, refusing to be part of the eight-member committee.

Since Manmohan Singh was in retirement mode, he must seriously introspect and realise that appointing the Lokpal at this juncture would only get him bad name and he would be remembered as the PM who subverted institutions at the behest of his party leadership, Jaitley said.

The BJP on Saturday asked the Election Commission to restrain the UPA government from making fresh appointments, including that of Lokpal and the Army Chief. “The government must be advised against making any appointment to important posts as it was in violation of the model code of conduct,” BJP general secretary JP Nadda had said after taking a party delegation to Deputy Election Commissioner Sudhir Tripathi and handing over to him a memorandum.

The Supreme Court is also seized of the issue. It has issued notice to the Centre seeking its response to a PIL challenging the process for selecting the chairperson and members of the proposed Lokpal, an ombudsman with powers to go into allegations of corruption in high places, including the Prime Minister and ministers.

The rules for the selection were notified on January 17 without complying with a mandatory provision (Section 61) of the Lokpal Act, 2014, for placing them in Parliament 30 days in advance, the PIL petitioner, NGO Common Cause, had pleaded with the SC through advocate Prashant Bhushan.

Further, at least four sitting judges of the SC were reported to have expressed their willingness for being considered for the post of judicial members of the Lokpal. Though keeping sitting judges in the zone of selection was permitted under the Act, it would seriously compromise judicial independence, a basic feature of the Constitution, particularly because of the fact that the government was the biggest litigant in the apex court, the PIL contended.

Justice Thomas and Nariman had refused to be part of the Lokpal Search Committee, expressing the opinion that the selection process would result in overlooking the most competent, independent and courageous persons, Bhushan pleaded.

Besides Justice Thomas and Nariman, the others appointed on the search committee are Meenakshi Gopinath, principal of Lady Shri Ram College here, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, educationist Mrinal Miri, former Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary KM Rao and senior journalist HK Dua.





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