GUJARATLOKAYUKTA: A SIGNIFICANT JUDGEMENT
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
On January 18th, 2012, Justice V.M. Sahai of the Gujarat High Court upheld the appointment of Justice R.A. Mehta as the Lokayukta of Gujarat.
The significance of this judgement has to be viewed from several aspects and the most important one being the fact that on August 25th, 2011, the Governor of Gujarat, Kamla Beniwal, using her discretionary powers, appointed Justice Mehta as the Lokayukta of Gujarat.
In November 2003, Justice Soni relinquished office as the Lokayukta. Since then, inspite of repeated demands from civil society, the Gujarat Government did not find an 'appropriate' successor to him. Finally, early in 2010, four names were proposed which were not accepted by the Governor. However, the Chief Justice of Gujarat then proposed Justice Mehta as a suitable candidate. In March 2010, it was duly approved by the Governor.
Justice Mehta did not seem to fit the bill for Modi and his men and they immediately objected to this possibility saying that he was not only 75 years old but he was also associated with some NGOs and social activists. However, after due consideration and having the approval of not only the Chief Justice but also the leader of the Opposition, the Governor finally appointed Justice Mehta as the Lokayukta.
The main reason why the Gujarat Government did not want Mehta as Lokayukta was because of his remarks on the 2002 Carnage and of holding the Government responsible for not doing enough for the displaced victims. Besides, since
In a stinging 79-page indictment of the CM, Justice Sahai asserts, "The only effort of the chief minister was to hamstring the appointment of lokayukta…..The delay in the appointment of lokayukta may have helped in hampering complaints and investigations against public functionaries who may still be walking scot-free with their chin up. The government's apathy is visible as it went into a slumber in the matter of the appointment of lokayukta……The letters dated 18.8.2011 were warning bells for our democratic system. The pranks of the chief minister who is the head of council of ministers demonstrates deconstruction of our democracy, and the questionable conduct of stonewalling the appointment of Justice (Retired) R.A. Mehta as lokayukta threatened the rule of law…….The refusal of the chief minister to perform his statutory or Constitutional obligation, and the effort to metastasize the procedure for appointment of lokayukta by issuing the Gujarat Lokayukta (Amendment) Ordinance, 2011, to amend the Act, were depraved and truculent actions…..The clear refusal of the chief minister to accept the primacy of opinion of the chief justice had the velocity which had shattered the faith in rule of law which is the essence of democracy and integrity the institution of lokayukta….."
This Judgement is bound to have wide-spread repercussions. The Gujarat Government has already planned to knock at the doors of the
Whatever the final verdict is, one thing is evidently clear that this indictment is bound to have a far-reaching impact on the so-called invincibility of Modi and will definitely hasten the process of his crimes catching up with him!
19th January, 2012
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall,