The “attitude” of the Narendra Modi government would not prove a hurdle to the working of the Lokayukta in Gujarat, asserted Justice (retired) R.A. Mehta on Wednesday, after the Supreme Court dismissed the State’s appeal and upheld his appointment to the post.
The State had challenged Governor Kamala Beniwal’s decision to appoint him without consulting the Council of Ministers.
“This is the Supreme Court’s victory. There is no dispute that we need a Lokayukta in Gujarat and the government has also accepted it,” Justice Mehta said.
“I have no comments to offer on the honourable Supreme Court’s decision,” he told The Hindu.
“I was indifferent. I was not supporting, nor contesting,” he said, replying to a question why he never filed any reply either before the High Court or the apex court.
In what was to later trigger a veritable slugfest between the Raj Bhavan and the Chief Minister, the Governor had appointed Justice Mehta as the Lokayukta in August 2011, bypassing the State government that had kept the position vacant for more than seven years. Mr. Modi had even accused the Governor of working at the behest of the Congress-led Union government.
Meanwhile, human rights activists — to whom the State had charged Justice Mehta of being close to — hailed the Supreme Court order.
“For more than seven years, the Gujarat government had not filled this important position; finally in August 2011, Governor Kamala Beniwal as the constitutional head of the State and after appropriate consultations, decided to appoint Justice Mehta as Lokayukta. This appointment, however, was not accepted by the Gujarat government till today.
“The Supreme Court judgment must, therefore, be seen as a shot in the arm for constitutional propriety and of a serious effort in ensuring that justice and truth ultimately find a place in Gujarat,” said Father Cedric Prakash of Prashant, a Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.
He added: “Above all, it is hoped that now with the Lokayukta in place, many allegations of corruption levelled against the Gujarat government, will be investigated immediately.”