Gujarat has no Lokayukta

The last incumbent, retired High Court Judge S M Soni, was appointed during Narendra Modi’s predecessor Keshubhai Patel’s rule, way back in 1998 and he had stepped down from his position in 2003. The position has been lying vacant ever since.

Lokayukta has the power to probe into the charges of corruption against ministers, chairpersons and directors of various government-owned boards, corporations and elected representatives in local self-government bodies. While periodic clamour have been raised by the opposition, the BJP government in the state has been dragging its feet over the matter. “Modi wants to appoint someone of his choice to the post and none otherwise,” alleged Gujarat Congress President Arjun Modvadia.

Modvadia, who was the leader of Opposition in 2005 recounted that he had raised the issue during his tenure. “While the Governor is to appoint the Lokayukta in consultation with the opposition, Narendra Modi had come with a name of his choice, to which we could not agree,” Modvadia said. “The process of appointment of the Lokayukta was stalled then,” he added.

However, slain RTI Activist Amit Jethawa had later filed a PIL in April last year seeking a directive from Gujarat High Court to the state for appointing a Lokayukta. Jethawa was successful in getting the directive. However, the appointment never happened.

The matter was once again raised by the current leader of opposition Shaktisinh Gohil in the recently concluded Assembly session. Gohil on March 14 had wondered that while the state government had been blowing its trumpet over claims of honesty, why was it not interested in setting up lokayukta? “Law is clear, Governor shall appoint the Lokayukta, in consultation with the Chief Justice of High Court and the Leader of Opposition, Government has no role to play,” Gohil said.

“However, the government is yet to notify anyone on this,” said Modvadia. When contacted, Minister for Law and Justice Dilip Sanghani said that the state government was so far busy with the Assembly session and added that the government will soon take up the matter with the Chief Justice, come up with a name and send it to the Governor for finalising the same for appointment as Lokayukta.  Renowned advocate Girish Patel however pointed out that the appointment of the Lokayukta was not the solution, but who was appointed for the post.

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