Friday, August 26, 2011

Governor Card Played by Congress in Gujarat to appoint Lokayukta

Congress has smartly played the governer card now in Gujarat. Its Governor has appointed Retd Justice RA Mehta as Lokayukta of the state on Thursday night when BJP has announced full support to the the Anna Hazare’s agitation. She bypassed the state government in this whole process.
Dr Kamla Governor

After consulting legal experts under the pressure of opposition party Congress, the Governor Dr Kamla Beniwal invoked Rule 3 of the Lokayukta Act 1986 of Gujarat, without waiting for a recommendation from the state government. As per Rule 3, the name of Lokayukta has to be recommended by the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court. The post was vacant since 2004. 
BJP’s own MLA from Mahuva Dr Kanubhai Kalasaria has been agitating against Nirma and Adani group companies, considered favourite of Modi government. He was to go on fast for the appointment of Lokayukta in the state.

This move of Governor has prompted the state government to seek legal redress in the matter. It has approached the high court, challenging Justice RA Mehta’s appointment as Lokayukta for which the Raj Bhawan issued notification on 25th evening. 

The court has refused to grant stay and asked the state government to verify whether the governor could be impleaded (sued) and posted it for further hearing on August 30. In media the governor’s action was defended and hailed by leader of opposition in assembly, Shaktisinh Gohil. 

He told media, “The name of Justice Mehta was suggested by Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court S.J. Mukhopadhaya to the state government, but it had not made the appointment till now,” and added, “The Gujarat government has no role to play in the appointment of Lokayukta.” 

Gohil said, stressing that in accordance with the Gujarat State Lokayukta Act, 1986, the state government had no role to play in the selection and appointment. "Governor has told us that non-appointment of Lokayukta for the last seven years, was a matter of grave concern as there was no authority to look into affairs of the government," he said. 

Though a pure political move, Modi is on weaker turf as he has been avoiding this matter for long. Last week a petition seeking the appointment of the Lokayukta in the state was filed in the Gujarat high court by Bhikhabhai Jethva, father of the late RTI activist Amit Jethva, who was murdered last year. As a damage control exercise the Modi government on the same day appointed a judicial commission to inquire into allegations of corruption and favours done by some departments to top industrial houses. 

Reacting to the governor’s move, Gujarat government spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas said the move “was not in the spirit of the Constitution. The entire government has been bypassed in the matter”. 

Rebel BJP MLA Dr Kalasaria
The state government was thinking of introducing an ordinance, seeking amendment in the act. The Gujarat cabinet has also set up a five-member cabinet committee to study the lokpal legislation after it is passed by Parliament and amend the state lokayukta act in accordance with it. 

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