The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday rejected petitions seeking contempt action against Chief Minister Narendra Modi for writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, requesting his intervention in the matter of the appointment of the Lokayukta by Governor Kamala Beniwal without consulting the State government.

The petitioners said the letter was “leaked” in the media even when the matter was pending in the court.

A Division Bench of Justices Akil Kureshi and Sonia Gokani, however, ruled that the petitioners failed to establish who had leaked the letter for, writing the letter in itself did not constitute contempt of court.

The letter was not intended to interfere with the process of justice and its contents were the same as what the government had argued in its petition challenging the Governor's order, the Bench observed. Moreover, the petitioners failed to establish that the “leaking” of the letter to the media was “intentional” and ordered by the Chief Minister or his office to influence the court.

The petitions were filed, by Anand Yagnik on behalf of Bhikhabhai Jethawa, father of the slain RTI activist Amit Jethawa, and Mukul Sinha on behalf of the Jan Sangharsh Manch, after the media widely reported Mr. Modi's letter to the Prime Minister on September 1 last, demanding the recall of the Governor for unilaterally appointing a retired High Court judge, Justice R. A. Mehta, Lokayukta. (The post had been lying vacant for over seven years.)

Questions raised

The government challenged in the High Court the Governor's August 25 order. Even when the matter was sub judice, Mr. Modi's letter to the Prime Minister was reported in the media, raising questions on the Governor's powers to appoint the Lokayukta bypassing the State government.