National

NDA govt made no effort to set up Lokpal, shows RTI response

Anjali Bhardwaj, co-convenor of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information. File

Anjali Bhardwaj, co-convenor of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The RTI response showed that no meetings of the search committee have been held since January 2014. In fact, the search committee was only constituted on September 27, 2018.

Despite coming to power in 2014 on an anti-corruption plank, the NDA government has not only failed to set up the Lokpal during its tenure, but did not hold even a single meeting of the search committee to find a candidate for the anti-corruption ombudsman, according to the response to an RTI query.

The RTI response showed that no meetings of the search committee have been held since January 2014. In fact, the search committee was only constituted on September 27, 2018.

It was set up by the selection committee, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which itself met for the first time in March 2018 -- 45 months after the government came to power -- after a contempt petition was filed in the Supreme Court.

“It shows a complete lack of urgency and political will to make the Lokpal functional. When in the Opposition, the BJP was totally committed to the Lokpal, but since it came to power, it has shown no intention to take the necessary steps,” said Anjali Bhardwaj, co-convenor of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, who filed the RTI request.

The Department of Personnel and Training, which responded to the RTI query, also refused to reveal the minutes of the selection committee’s six meetings since March 2018. “As regards the minutes of the meetings it is submitted that the authorship of such documents which include 3-5 high-level dignitaries does not vest in Department of Personnel and Training and same have been shared as secret documents. Thus copies of the said documents cannot be provided by the undersigned CPIO,” said the response.

Neither the involvement of “high-level dignitaries” nor the classification of “secret documents” constitutes a valid exemption to the provision of information under the RTI Act. “This denial of information is blatantly illegal,” said Ms. Bhardwaj.

She noted that the government’s lack of transparency and urgency with regard to the Lokpal pointed to a lack of seriousness in its anti-corruption agenda. “The natural body to deal with high level allegations of corruption like the Rafale deal or the Sahara-Birla diaries should be the Lokpal, not the Supreme Court,” she said. “The government’s delay raises big questions on what it is trying to avoid.”

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 11:38:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nda-govt-made-no-effort-to-set-up-lokpal-shows-rti-response/article25791073.ece

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