Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has refused the government's offer to attend the scheduled meeting of the Lokpal Selection Committee on Friday, saying there was no provision for a "Special Invitee" to attend the meet.
"Since there is no provision under Section 4 of the Lokpal Act, 2013 for a Special Invitee to be a part of the Selection Committee or attend these meetings, I am once again forced to respectfully decline this invitation," Kharge wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
His letter dated March 14 came following a letter by the Department of Training and Personnel inviting him to attend the meeting.
The Opposition leader also accused the government of using his refusal to attend the past meetings of the Selection Committee as a special invitee as an "excuse" to not appoint a Lokpal.
This is the seventh time Kharge has refused to attend the Selection Committee meeting.
"Since 2014, the government has not made any attempt to amend the relevant provisions of the Lokpal Act to include the leader of the single largest party in the Opposition to be a member of the Selection Committee," he wrote.
The Supreme Court had on March 7 sought to know, within 10 days, the possible date for the Selection Committee’s meeting to finalise names for the Lokpal
Kharge said a Special Invitee would not have any rights of participation in the process of selection of the Lokpal and that he cannot accept the Opposition being made voiceless in a critical manner.
"However, the fact remains that whatever tardy progress the government has made has only been under pressure from the Supreme Court," he said.
"By excluding the Opposition, this process is being vitiated and I would like to caution the government that anyone selected through this one-sided process may decline to accept this position," Kharge said.
The Supreme Court had on March 7 sought to know, within 10 days, the possible date for the Selection Committee's meeting to finalise names for the Lokpal -- a three-member, anti-corruption watchdog comprising a chairman, a judicial and non-judicial member.
A Search Committee was constituted under Section 4(3) of the Lokayuktas Act, 2013 for the purpose of recommending a panel of names for the appointment of the chairperson and members of the Lokpal.
The Committee comprises Chairperson Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai (former judge of Supreme Court) and members Justice Sakha Ram Singh Yadav (former judge of Allahabad High Court), Ranjit Kumar (former Solicitor General of India), Arundhati Bhattacharya (former CMD of SBI), Dr Lalit K. Panwar (former Secretary), Shabbirhusein S. Khandwawala (retired Director General of Gujarat), A. Surya Prakash (Chairman, Prasar Bharti) and Dr A.S. Kiran Kumar (former Chairman of ISRO).