Gujarat HC blow to Modi on Lokayukta appointment

In an unsual move, a third judge of the Gujarat High Court has rejected state government’s petition challenging the appointment of the Lokayukta Justice (retd) R A Mehta by Governor Kamala Beniwal, delivering a major blow to Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The order comes at a time when the BJP has raised the political pitch over the issue, accusing the Congress of misusing the office of the Governor who made the appointment.

Justice V M Sahai’s order came after a division bench of the Gujarat High Court in October last year gave a split verdict. While Justice Akil Qureshi had rejected the Modi government’s petition, Justice Sonia Gokani had upheld the government’s arguments. The case was then referred to Justice Sahai.

In his order, Justice Sahai said he concurred with the ruling and observations of Justice Qureshi. The Modi government challenged the appointment order on two grounds. First, the Governor could not have acted without the aid and advice of the council of ministers and, secondly, the consultation process between the chief minister and the High Court Chief Justice was not yet over. Hence, the government claimed, the order was invalid and unconstitutional.

However, Justice Sahai did not agree with the government stand. “The majority view is that the consultations had reached a deadlock between the chief minister and the chief justice. And in case of a deadlock, the suggestion of the chief justice holds primacy,’’ said advocate Anand Yagnik, a respondent in the case.

Justice Sahai not only upheld Justice Qureshi’s order and ratified Mehta’s appointment, he also tore into the government for “stonewalling the appointment.” Mehta was appointed Lokayukta on August 26, 2011. Prior to that, Gujarat did not have an ombudsman for seven years.

However, the Modi government questioned Mehta’s appointment on the ground that the governor did not consult it on the matter.

In New Delhi, after the Gujarat High Court verdict upheld the governor’s appointment of the Lokayukta, the Congress was quick to react, attacking the BJP and Modi. Congress in-charge of Gujarat affairs Mohan Prakash said that the BJP misled the country on the issue and the party should apologise to country.

“We welcome the verdict passed by Gujarat High Court. The entire BJP misled the country on the issue of the Lokayukta. It had given a resolution to the President of India and demanded the recall of the Gujarat governor after he appointed the Lokayukta in the state.

Now, the governor’s decision has been upheld by the high court, so the BJP should apologise to the country,” Mohan Prakash said.

Prakash also alleged that the BJP had undermined the country’s constitutional institutions and said the party has been maintaining double standards on the appointment of the anti-corruption ombudsman.

Ahmedabad advocates who had also approached the court in protest against the delays in the appointment hailed it a major victory. “The verdict has clearly stated that the governor’s order was not only valid but constitutional as the chief jjustice finalised his suggestion and the governor had just discharged her constitutional duty,’’ said lawyer Mukul Sinha.

A red faced Modi government was quick to react, saying that it would go in appeal against the verdict to the Supreme Court. “There is a legal recourse available to us. We do believe that the appointment was not valid and we will challenge the order in the Supreme Court,’’ Gujarat government spokesman Jaynarayan Vyas said. He alleged that the Congress was trying to destabilise the Modi government and was misusing the Raj Bhavan.

On the other hand, the Congress, bolstered by the ruling, hit out at the Modi government. “The Modi government fears that its corrupt practices will be exposed once the Lokayukta is appointed and that is why it wants to delay it further. The high court ruling is a big blow to their attempts,’’ said senior state Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry