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Haste heat on Lokpal

New Delhi, April 20: BJP leader Arun Jaitley today said the UPA government’s “unholy haste” in pushing the appointment of a Lokpal would destroy the anti-corruption watchdog’s credibility.

Reports say Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sounded out the Lokpal selection panel members on their availability between April 24 and 28 to meet and pick the nominees.

Yesterday, the BJP requested the Election Commission to stop the government from making key appointments during the poll process.

Calling the government’s move a “gross political impropriety”, Jaitley wrote on his blog that any appointment made by the government now, with less than a month left for the election results, would be a violation of the model code of conduct.

“It would be a gross political impropriety and violation of the code of conduct, if the UPA would rush through its appointment at this stage. Besides this, the procedure is legally a suspect,” Jaitley wrote.

An NGO recently filed a PIL challenging certain provisions of the Lokpal Act, and has now moved a fresh application seeking a stay on the proposed selection panel meeting, making it uncertain.

In any case, the meeting is unlikely to be held if Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj, a member of the selection panel, boycotts it, a top judicial officer said.

“Such unholy haste will destroy the credibility of the Lokpal even before it is formed. This procedure should be stopped immediately,” Jaitley wrote.

Blaming Manmohan Singh, he said the Prime Minister was now in “retirement mode”.

“He must seriously introspect (that) if this unholy haste in pushing the Lokpal on the eve of certain departure is implemented, he will only be remembered as a Prime Minister who subverted institutions at the behest of his party leadership. The Prime Minister has nothing to lose except some residual creditability.”

Jaitley wrote: “On the eve of the announcement of the elections, the UPA government decided to rush through with the appointment of the chairperson of the Lokpal and its members.

“A search committee was hurriedly appointed. The department of personnel usurped the power of the search committee and prepared a short list of persons from whom the appointments would have to be made.

“Everyone, including some distinguished members of the search committee, were uneasy about the procedure being followed. Two eminent members, Fali S. Nariman and Justice K.T. Thomas, resigned from the search committee citing this as the reason.”

The process of setting up the Lokpal, following the enactment of the law in January, had already run into rough weather with the government and the Opposition locked in a confrontation over the selection of its members.

Besides the Prime Minister, the selection committee includes the leader of the Lok Sabha Opposition, the Speaker, the Chief Justice of India or his representative, and an eminent jurist.