BJP lodges protest with Prez over Lokpal selection panel

BJP lodges protest with Prez over Lokpal selection panel

Accusing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of “damaging” the institution of Lokpal even prior to its appointment, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday lodged a protest with President Pranab Mukherjee requesting him to advise the government for a consensus on an eminent jurist.

Two days back the PM-led four member panel had cleared the name of senior lawyer PP Rao for installing him in the slot of eminent jurist in a selection committee that would search for Lokpal. The committee by a majority of 3-1 had picked Rao, with the only opposition coming from Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj. 

Other members of the committee include Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Speaker Meira Kumar and Chief Justice of India nominee and SC judge H L Dattu.

Swaraj had suggested three options to for arriving at a consensus on the possible candidate as she had argued that it would send a wrong signal to people that there were differences of opinion on Lokpal which is being established after 40 years of botched attempts. She had suggested the name of K Parasaran who was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in the eminent jurist category.

Senior BJP leader Ravishankar Prasad confirmed that Sushma had met Mukherjee on Wednesday but did not share the details of the deliberations between the duo.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley accused Singh of “destroying” the  collegium system, where representative of opposition parties are part of the selection panel, of appointments which are expected to be non-partisan. 

He also questioned SC judge Dattu of not maintaining a “balance” since the BJP leader said that he did not propose any name of eminent jurist. “As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure comes to an end, it is time for him to introspect the damage he has done to the collegium system. He puts on a veneer of straightforwardness but he is excessively political. When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister during the NDA regime, there was only one occasion where the two LOPs had dissented to an appointment,” Jaitley wrote.

He recalled that UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Singh had taken objection to the NDA appointing Justice J S Verma as NHRC chairman. “It is indeed embarrassing for Singh, along with his leader for having raised an objection to the appointment of Justice J S Verma as Chairman of the NHRC. There could not have been, at that stage, a candidate with better credentials than Justice Verma. His dissent was motivated by political considerations,” the lawyer-turned-politician sarcastically remarked.

Questioning the PM’s track record,  Jaitley said that Singh wanted to appoint a tainted person as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner despite Swaraj putting her foot down. Ultimately, her dissent was upheld and the appointment of the CVC was struck down.

Describing Rao as an honourable man, the BJP leader said the objective of having a Chief Justice or his nominee judge in the collegium was intended to maintain a balance. 

Ordinarily, in view of the divided opinion, the nominee judge was expected to come out with some outstanding name who would be acceptable by all. This did not happen”.

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