Lack of conviction

Lack of conviction

One major issue of contention about the appointment of constitutional functionaries and others like the CBI director or the CVC is the method of appointment. Ideally there should be an independent mechanism to make these appointments so that the government will not be able to choose its favourites for such positions.

Parties support this principle when they are in the opposition but do not follow this when they are in government at the Centre or in states. The Lokayukta bill passed by the Gujarat Assembly is ample proof of this. The Narendra Modi government, through this bill, has appropriated a very decisive say for the state government in the appointment of the Lokayukta, though for the sake of form, there is representation for the opposition and the judiciary in the selection panel.

The seven-member committee, headed by the chief minister, is dominated by the government, and this will ensure that the Lokayukta will in effect be its nominee. The governor has to approve the selection. The bill was brought in the wake of the battle between the state government and the governor over the appointment of a Lokayukta. The governor appointed Justice R A Mehta as the Lokayukta without consulting the government. The Supreme Court upheld the appointment and the state lost its review petition also over the judgment. Even after the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Gujarat case, where the state government had refused to appoint a Lokayukta for many years, the issue of absolute powers of the governor in such appointments may be debatable. But the governor’s powers should be in the focus here.

Though the state government has said that the bill was not meant to prevent Justice Mehta from taking charge, it sets the scene for appointment of a new Lokayutka on its terms. The  Lokayukta  appointed in accordance with the new process will be beholden to the state government. It is anybody’s guess whether such a person will fairly and independently investigate corruption charges against members of the government. The bill also exposes the hypocrisy in the BJP’s stand on the issue. It has demanded an independent selection committee, free from government control, for the appointment of a Lokpal at the Centre. At the same time, it has defended the Gujarat bill which allows effective government control over the appointment of the Lokayukta.

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