In a setback to the Narendra Modi government, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a curative petition seeking a review of the judgment upholding the appointment of Justice R.A. Mehta as the Gujarat Lokayukta .
A five-Judge Bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir (sitting on his last working day) and Justices P. Sathasivam, G.S. Singhvi, B.S. Chauhan and Ibrahim Kalifulla dismissed the petition as of no merits. A curative petition is filed after the dismissal of a review petition and it is decided by a larger Bench in the chambers through circulation.
In January, a Bench of Justices Chauhan and Kalifulla said: “The facts make it clear that the process of consultation by the Governor with the then Chief Justice of Gujarat stood complete and in such a situation the appointment of Justice Mehta cannot be held to be illegal.”
In this case, the Bench said: “The recommendation of the Chief Justice suggesting only one name, instead of a panel of names, is in consonance with the law laid down by this court, and we do not find any cogent reason to not give effect to the said recommendation. The objections raised by the Chief Minister have been duly considered by the Chief Justice, as well as by this court, and we are of the considered view that none of them are tenable, to the extent that any of them may be labelled as cogent reason(s), for the purpose of discarding the recommendation of the name of respondent no. 1, for appointment to the post of Lokayukta.”
On the question of bias, the Bench said: “There are sufficient safeguards in the statute itself to take care of the preconceived notions in the mind or the bias, of the Lokayukta and so far as the suitability of the person to be appointed as Lokayukta is concerned, the same is to be examined, taking into consideration the interests of the people at large, and not those of any individual.”
Within a few days of this judgment another Bench, headed by Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan in a case relating to Karnataka Lokayukta, said: “The Governor of the State of Karnataka can appoint Lokayukta or Upa Lokayukta only on the advice tendered by the Chief Minister and that the Chief Justice of the High Court is only one of the consultees and his views will have no primacy.”
The Bench quashed the appointment of Justice K. Chandrashekaraiah (retd.) as Upa Lokayukta by notification on January 21, 2012. It upheld the Karnataka High Court order quashing the appointment.
In view of the two conflicting judgments, the Gujarat government filed a review petition and it was dismissed. Against this the present curative petition was filed.