Leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj clashed with prime minister Manmohan Singh in the first meeting of the Lok Pal selection committee, comprising prime minister, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and a nominee of the chief justice of India. The meeting was held at the prime minister’s house, and the first business they had to transact was to pick an eminent jurist from a list of nominees to complete the selection committee.
Singh came with a list of seven names for the eminent jurist slot, which included former attorney general and Rajya Sabha member (nominated) K S Parasaran, Supreme Court lawyer and jurist Fali Nariman, senior Supreme Court lawyer PP Rao and an academic Dr Mohan Gopal. Singh picked up the name of PP Rao, and asked Swaraj.
She opposed the name and explained her reasons for it. She said as this was the first meeting of the Lok Pal committee, there is need to choose a name which will survive scrutiny and set a healthy precedent. She was of the view that Rao did not fit the bill of an eminent jurist. She also felt that he was too closely linked with the Congress party.
The other two in the committee, Lok Speaker and the chief justice of India’s representative, a senior Supreme Court judge, concurred with the prime minister and consented to the name of Rao. Swaraj held out.
She asked the prime minister to expand the list of names and include other jurists like Soli Sorabjee and Harish Salve. She also wanted the meeting to be deferred. The prime minister was not inclined to do either. He wanted the meeting to pick the name for the eminent jurist slot as required by the Lok Pal Act. Then Swaraj suggested that Parasaran’s name should be picked, he is a man totally unconnected with the BJP, and he served as a solicitor general and attorney general under Congress governments. Singh had apparently said that he respected Parasaran, but he stuck to the name of Rao.
Swaraj told him that she would not agree and that she would want to register her opposition. The official note at the end of the meeting said that PP Rao’s name was recommended for the eminent jurist slot by a majority of three-to-one and that Swaraj opposed the name.
Swaraj said that this showed that the ruling party will always have its way. In response to a dna query whether BJP would do things differently when they are in power, she shot back: “Hundred per cent, we will do it differently.”