“It is imperative that Lok Pal selection committee member is picked through consensus”

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, who has opposed the government’s nomination of jurist P.P. Rao as the fifth member on the selection panel of the anti-graft body Lokpal, met President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday.

Ms. Swaraj is learnt to have briefed the President about her concerns regarding Mr. Rao, who is perceived to be a “Congress loyalist,” and said it was imperative that a candidate was picked through consensus.

At a meeting at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here, Ms. Swaraj sought the President’s intervention in reversing the Prime Minister’s choice of Mr. Rao over the other jurists in the government’s list — K. Parasaran and Fali Nariman.

At a party briefing later, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was seeking to negate the spirit of the selection committee by insisting on Mr. Rao’s name. Dr. Singh had not fulfilled his duty in appointing a Lokpal and, by picking a name without a consensus, had gone against the spirit of Parliamentary approval.

Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said it was the Prime Minister’s insistence that none of the others could be considered and that the government was only interested in P.P. Rao that made him doubt his intentions. “The objective of having a Chief Justice or his nominee judge in the collegium was intended to maintain a balance.”

Mr. Jaitley said the Prime Minister had “done damage” to the collegium system. “He has damaged the institution of Lokpal even prior to its appointment.”

The senior BJP leader pointed out that there were a large number of public appointments that were expected to be on non-partisan lines. It was for this reason that the collegium system was mooted. “Currently, the chairman and members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), Vigilance Commissioners, CIC and Information Commissioners and now the Chairperson and Members of the Lokpal are appointed by a collegium. The collegium for each of these appointments is differently constituted. The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha is associated with each of these appointments. For the NHRC, even the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha is a member of the collegium.

“As Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s tenure comes to an end, it is time for him to introspect on the damage he has done to the collegium system.” Behind the veneer of straightforwardness, Dr. Singh was excessively political, Mr. Jaitley said.

“As Prime Minister, he wanted to appoint a tainted person as the CVC,” he said. “My colleague and Leader of the Opposition, Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, dissented. Her dissent was upheld and the appointment of the CVC was struck down.”

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