SC verdicts on Lokayuktas confusing: Jaitley

How can law in Gujarat be different?

Senior lawyer and BJP leader Arun Jaitley said on Monday that the Supreme Court has given two “conflicting” judgments on Lokayuktas in Karnataka and Gujarat while interpreting the word “consultation” in the appointment of the corruption watchdog.

In Gujarat, the Supreme Court had upheld the appointment of Justice R A Mehta which was opposed by Chief Minister Narendra Modi government. On the other hand, the apex court had struck down Justice Chandrashekharaiah’s selection as Karnataka Upa Lokayukta, both delivered in a span of nine days since January 2. Both are BJP ruled states. 

A bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Madan B Lokur interpreted the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984, to conclude that the appointment to the post of Upa Lokayukta would be made by the governor only on the advice of the Chief Minister who would recommend the name after consultation with several Constitutional authorities including the Chief Justice of the High Court.  

The apex court had set aside the Karnataka HC’s judgment which had stated that the opinion given by the Chief Justice would have primacy in the appointment process.

Earlier on January 2, a bench of justices B S Chauhan and F M I Kalifullah had stamped Justice Mehta’s appointment giving primacy to the HC’s  Chief Justice opinion since he enjoyed an independent constitutional status.

Barring Modi government, the governor, chief justice and leader of opposition in state assembly were for having Justice Mehta as the head of the state anti-corruption watchdog.

Jaitley said the lacunae, which he viewed as unprecedented, needs to be rectified as it would end up confusing legislator like him if Parliament were to decide to frame a law on Lokayukta selection.

“How can the law in Gujarat be different than the law in any other state?  The reasoning given in the latter judgment that the scheme of the two Acts is different, does not appear to be sound as both the Acts contemplate consultation by the Chief Minister with various consultees including the Chief Justice of the High Court. Much to the contrary, the scheme of both the Acts is almost identical,” Jaitley wrote in “Two Different Meanings to the Word ‘Consultation’” which was released to the media. Jaitley was of the view that the Karnataka judgement restores the balance between the executive and the judiciary.  

“It follows the golden rule of interpretation i.e. the literal interpretation which clearly expresses the intention of the Legislature,” he argued.

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