Azad may make it to crucial selection panel

Collegium will decide chiefs of CVC, CBI, NHRC, Lokpal
Last Updated 24 June 2014, 20:14 IST

Veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was named Leader of Opposition  (LoP) in the Rajya Sabha, could be made member of the collegium to pick Central Vigilance Commissioner, CBI Director, National Human Rights Commission Chairman and Lokpal.

Azad’s nomination could serve the government’s purpose to meet its obligations under the Supreme Court’s directive as well as under other statutes passed by Parliament, which stipulate that the LoP must be involved in the selection of these heads, top government sources said.

On the other hand, there is no specification in the statutes that the LoP has to be from the Lok Sabha and not the Rajya Sabha, they said.

This helps the government as it is in no mood to grant the LoP status to the Congress in the 16th Lok Sabha. Though the Congress is the largest opposition party, it has only 44 MPs – 11 short of the required 55.

The Congress, however, is keen to hold the post and has argued that rather than its numbers, the total strength of the UPA coalition should be taken into consideration for allotting the post.

The government has cited rules that say the post of LoP is allotted to the opposition party that should have won seats totalling at least 10 per cent of the total strength of the House.

According to the sources, Azad’s nomination to the selection panel will silence legal experts who have said the failure to appoint a LoP in the Lok Sabha could have a deleterious effect in the selection process for members of the Central Vigilance Commission, members of the Lokpal and director of the CBI.

Earlier this month, Azad was named leader of Congress in Rajya Sabha, paving the way for his appointment as LoP since Congress has 67 members in the 250-member Upper House, which is more than the minimum requirement of 10 per cent of the total strength of the House to get that post.

In the past too, senior BJP leaders have argued, the Lok Sabha did not have any LoP when Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi were prime ministers – on both occasions, the Congress had absolute majority in the Lok Sabha.

 Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has said she is not in favour of taking any decision in haste on the issue of LoP.

She has also clarified that Congress president Sonia Gandhi has not written any letter to her on the issue, but she has received a letter from Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi informing that former Union Minister Mallikarjun Kharge has been elected Leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha.

(Published 24 June 2014, 20:14 IST)

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