Modi Govt has double standards on Lokpal: Congress

New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday accused the Narendra Modi government of double standards on the Lokpal issue by saying that the ombudsman can't be appointed in the absence of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress said it seems the Modi government does not want to be held accountable to, and stand scrutiny by, an independent institution such as Lokpal.

"The BJP government is systematically dismantling the checks and balances in our democracy and dismantling the pillars of transparency and accountability," Congress spokesman and Lok Sabha MP Gaurav Gogoi told the media here.

The government, through Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, on Tuesday told the apex court that the Lokpal cannot be appointed in the present situation as amendment regarding the definition of Leader of Opposition in the Lokpal Act was pending in Parliament.

As per the Lokpal Act of 2013, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha has to be part of the Lokpal selection panel.

At present, there is no Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha as no party -- including the Congress -- has the requisite number of MPs to qualify for the status. The Congress is the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha at present.

Rohatgi said that "unless the proposed amendment making the leader of the largest opposition party as Leader of Opposition is passed by Parliament, the Lokpal can't be appointed".

However, Gogoi said it was a "delaying tactic" by the government.

"How is it possible that the Centre can amend the Leader of Opposition clause when it comes to other bills such as the Delhi Special Police Establishment Bill or in the selection of CBI Director where the definition of Leader of Opposition was changed to say 'leader of largest opposition party'?" he said.

"So, when it suits the government it amends the Leader of Opposition clause but when it wants to block the appointment of Lokpal it becomes rigid," Gogoi added.

Gogoi said the Whistleblower Protection Act, 2011, has been similarly diluted by the government by moving amendments to the effect that documents classified under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, cannot be released by a whistleblower even if his intentions are to expose corruption or misuse of power.

"The government never rewards a whistleblower, it punishes the whistleblower. And where exactly is the Lokpal Bill passed on August 27, 2013? There is total ambiguity over the status of this bill," Gogoi said.

He demanded the government should appoint a Lokpal as soon as possible.