Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday rejected the government’s invitation to attend the Lokpal Selection Committee meeting set to take place on Friday. This is the seventh time that Kharge has objected to being invited as a “special invitee” to the meeting since February 2018.

Kharge, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi dated March 14, said the government, since 2014, had not made ay attempts to amend the provisions of the Lokpal Act so that the leader of the single largest party in the Opposition can be a member of the Lokpal selection committee.

The Lokpal Selection Committee is headed by the prime minister. Other members of the panel are the Lok Sabha speaker, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the chief justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by the chief justice and an eminent jurist.

Kharge was invited to the meetings of the selection panel as a “special invitee” as the current Lok Sabha does not have a designated leader of Opposition. The current Lok Sabha does not have a leader of Opposition because the Congress – the principal Opposition party – does not have enough members in the House.

“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 said in the letter.

Kharge said that a special invitee would not have any rights of participation in the process of selection of the Lokpal. “...and I cannot accept the Opposition being made voiceless in a critical matter.”

Kharge alleged that the government and the ministers have repeatedly used his refusal to attend the meetings as a “special invitee” as an “excuse for not appointing a Lokpal over the last five years”. “However, the fact remains that whatever tardy progress the government has made has only been under pressure from the Supreme Court,” Kharge said.

By excluding the opposition, the selection process “is being vitiated and anyone selected through this one sided process may decline to accept this position,” the Congress leader said in his letter.