Govt plans to put in place Lokpal
About a month before UPA tenure ends, the government is making efforts to put in place the structure of the anti-corruption body Lokpal.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh is planning to convene a meeting of the Lokpal Selection committee on 27 or 28 April.
Sources said the two dates are being considered in view of convenience of its members, including the Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj who is busy campaigning in her Lok Sabha constituency Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh.
Besides the Prime Minister, the Selection committee includes Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, the Speaker, the Chief Justice of India or his representative and a prominent jurist.
The committee had met once in February during which Swaraj expressed her opposition to the nomination of jurist P P Rao as one of the members of the panel, alleging he has been a Congress loyalist.
Sources said the government is keen to complete the process of setting up the Lokpal before it demits office, failing which its seriousness on the issue would be questioned.
If Swaraj has any objections, those would be recorded, they said.
The process of setting up the anti-corruption watchdog following enactment of the law in January has run into rough weather as the government and the opposition have been locked in a confronation over its members.
In the turn of events reminiscent of BJP’s opposition to the appointment of P J Thomas as Chief Vigilance Commissioner two years ago, Swaraj refused to back the government nominee in the category of eminent jurist in the Lokpal panel and registered her dissent during the proceedings of the meeting last night.
Swaraj was outvoted with three votes going in favour of the government nominee in the meeting to select the fifth member of the panel.
Opposing PP Rao, she demanded the panel should be ‘free from such people’ and said it should have ‘apolitical people’ and should not be made a ‘captive body’.
Swaraj had said since this is the first time the anti-corruption ombudsman was being set up in the country, there should be unanimity on the appointments.
She is believed to have suggested the names of eminent jurists Fali S Nariman and Harish Salve for the key panel and even said that to bring unanimity in the decision, another meeting could be held and a fresh list of names be worked out.
Despite her opposition, the other three members of the Selection Committee - the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Supreme Court judge H L Dattu, who has been nominated by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam, gave a go-ahead to Rao’s membership.
Meanwhile, BJP today said such things such as making apppointments to the Lokpal should be avoided when the election process is on.
‘On the larger issue of reports about Lokpal appointment, we expect that when we are in the midst of elections, when the Model Code of Conduct is on, at least till 16th of May all these things must be avoided,’ BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said.