Lokpal panel: BJP says no to Rao

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on February 04, 2014 Published on February 04, 2014

Party politics PP Rao is in the eye of a political storm

Sushma Swaraj says nomination smacks of partisanship, proposes Parasaran for post

Accusing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of filling the selection committee for Lokpal with “Congress loyalists”, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday registered her formal dissent on the nomination of jurist PP Rao to the committee.

She has sought time with President Pranab Mukherjee to convince him of the need to reject the nomination, which was made in a meeting at the PM’s residence late on Monday.

The Lokpal Act provides for a selection committee that has the PM, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice or a sitting judge of the Supreme Court nominated by the CJI and a fifth member selected by these four members. The Chief Justice has nominated Justice HL Dattu for the selection committee.

List of names

The PM had called a meeting of the existing members on Monday night to select the fifth member of the committee, who is required to be an eminent jurist.

A list of names including Fali S Nariman, Chandrashekhar Pillai, Mohan Parasaran, PP Rao, Mohan Gopal and two others had been circulated to all the selection committee members prior to this meeting. According to Swaraj, the meeting began with the PM asking who everyone prefers.

“But then he suggested PP Rao’s name. I told him I did not agree with this suggestion because he (Rao) is too identified with the Congress,” she said. However, Justice Dattu and the Speaker agreed with Rao’s nomination.

Swaraj still resisted and came up with three different suggestions.

“I think the country has been waiting for an impartial ombudsman for the last 40 years. There should not be even a suggestion of partisanship in the selection process. Therefore, I gave them three suggestions — expand the list of suggested names to include other eminent jurists such as Soli Sorabjee and Harish Salve.

“If that is not acceptable, pick someone like Mohan Parasaran from among the suggestions circulated by the Government. He is not identified with anyone.

“If even that is not acceptable, we could have more discussions to arrive at a consensus,” Swaraj said. However, the PM “insisted” on Rao’s name, she added.

The recommendation was formally made with a majority of 3:1 with Swaraj noting her dissent.

The BJP leader’s suggestion with regard to Parasaran’s name was also recorded in the letter that was sent to the President for approval. Swaraj said the entire process smacked of prejudice and partisanship.

“The Government is not in favour of consensus. They want to overrule the Opposition by a majority vote even on an issue like selection of the Lokpal.

Acceptable to all

“I told the PM that you’ve already sent PP Rao to the Rajya Sabha as an eminent jurist. Let us have someone whose presence is acceptable to all.

“But it is clear now that they want to pack the Lokpal with their loyalists,” she said.

This is the second time Swaraj has expressed her dissent over the PM’s selection of candidates for a critical post. The Government fared terribly in the previous such stand-off, when the Supreme Court quashed the appointment of PJ Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner after the Government ignored Swaraj’s dissent over the move.

The Leader of Opposition said she is going to try and persuade the President to not accept the recommendation made by the committee chaired by the PM.

Published on February 04, 2014
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