Modi again tries to meddle with Lokayukta choice

Modi again tries to meddle with Lokayukta choice

In another attempt to thwart the appointment of an independent Lokayukta, the Narendra Modi government is expected to bring in a bill in the state assembly on Tuesday which seeks an overhaul of the Lokayukta institution.

The bill proposes to eliminate the role of the governor and chief justice of the Gujarat High Court from the appointment process. The proposed Lokayukta Bill, 2013, in turn, seeks to vest almost the entire control over appointment with the state government.

The appointment of the Lokayukta will be by a committee comprising chief minister, assembly speaker, a minister, leader of the Opposition, judge of the high court and vigilance commissioner.
The bill also envisages appointment of four deputy Lokayuktas, who will also be involved in corruption probes, apart from the Lokayukta. The Lokayukta will have to seek prior permission of the state government for acting on a corruption charge.

A complainant will have to deposit Rs 2,000 and if the complaint is found untrue, he/she will be fined Rs 25,000 and sentenced to six months in jail.

The Lokayukta will have to submit its report to the cabinet, which will have the power to accept or reject it.

The apex court had recently rejected Modi government’s review petition against its order upholding the appointment of Justice R A Mehta by Gujarat Governor Kamala Beniwal as the Lokayukta.
The Opposition is already crying foul. Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee chief Arjun Modhwadi said, “This shows up the government’s reluctance to tackle corruption; it wants to usurp all the powers, instead.”

The apex court’s January 2 ruling had given primacy to the opinion of the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice, disagreeing with the state's contention that Governor could not appoint Lokayukta without state government’s advice. The last Lokayukta of Gujarat, Justice S M Soni, retired on November 24, 2003.

The existing law includes under the Lokayukta’s purview, the chief minister, ministers, deputy chief minister, chairmen of boards and corporations, vice chancellors of universities and public servants as defined under Section 21 of the Indian Penal Code.
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