Ahmedabad, Jan 18: In a setback to the Narendra Modi government, the Gujarat High Court, in a majority decision, today upheld the appointment of Lokayukta by the Governor while dismissing the plea of the state challenging it.
Justice V M Sahai, who was given the task of hearing the petition challenging the appointment of Lokayukta following the split verdict of a division bench, said, “I could not agree with Justice Sonia Gokani of the division bench on the points of difference, which were referred to me.”
In his verdict, he said, “I concur with the views of my brother judge Akil Kureshi.”
Kureshi had upheld the appointment of Lokayukta calling it as “constitutional”.
“Hence, the government petition is dismissed”, the court said.
Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal had appointed retired Justice R A Mehta to the post of Lokayukta on August 25, last year. The post had been lying vacant for eight years prior to that.
The Gujarat government, led by Chief Minister Modi, had gone all out to oppose the appointment of Lokayukta by the Governor for “bypassing the state government”.
The government had challenged the appointment the very next day in the High Court and had also unleashed a political campaign against the Governor.
Earlier, on October 11, a division bench of the HighCourt had given a split verdict on the appointment issue.
While Justice Kureshi had upheld the decision of the Governor, Justice Gokani had quashed the warrant of appointment issued by the Governor terming it to be unconstitutional.
When contacted, Justice Mehta, whose appointment has been upheld, told PTI, “I have not seen the judgement and will only be able to comment after the final judgement.”
With the decision of the third judge, the matter would now go to the chief justice, who will then refer it to the division bench, which had given the split verdict earlier.
The division bench will then give a formal order, after incorporating Justice Sahai's views. The government can then appeal in the Supreme Court.
Earlier, Justice Kureshi, in his verdict, had rejected the state government's contention that the Governor did not act as per the advice of the council of ministers.
Justice Kureshi had observed that the Governor could not be said to have acted in her discretion or without the aid and advice of the council of ministers.
He had said that the post of Lokayukta was lying vacant for the past eight years and there was a deadlock between the chief justice (of the High Court) and the Chief Minister on the issue.
When the Chief Justice suggested Justice Mehta's name, the Chief Minister rejected his name.
There was a deadlock between the two and at such a stage, the opinion of the chief justice of High Court is supreme, Justice Kureshi had said.
However, Justice Gokani, who had differed with Justice Kureshi, had said said that Mehta's appointment was not done in accordance with the parliamentary democracy practices and that the Governor had overreached her powers.
“Since no exception has been carved out by the Constitution or by Supreme Court judgements, this decision of the Governor was taken by sending parliamentary process into a backseat,” Justice Gokani had said.
“Any authority that overreaches constitutional provIsions, needs to be contained. The court cannot permit the disturbance in a democratic setup and the constitutional scheme,” she had stated.
The Governor's appointment of Lokayukta had created a political uproar, with the Modi government alleging that the Congress was trying to run a parallel government through the Governor's office and demanded recall of Beniwal.
Institution of Lokayukta is the hope of people for battling the corruption of public functionaries, single judge of Gujarat High Court said today while upholding the appointment of anti-corruption authority in the state by Gujarat Governor.
Justice V M Sahai, the third judge who heard the case after split verdict of a division bench, today rejected state government's petition challenging appointment of Justice (retd) R A Mehta as Lokayukta by Governor Dr Kamla Beniwal.
“A new wave of democracy demanding empowerment of ordinary people for fighting corruption is sweeping India. Modern civil society and present-day world of globalisation need corruption-free society,” the judge observed in the ruling.
“The country requires a culture of integrity. An integrity of institution, such as Lokayukta, is the dream of the disillusioned and is the hope of people to battle against corruption of public functionaries,” Justice Sahai said.
The provisions made under the Gujarat Lokayukta Act must be viewed in the context of the socio-economic conditions and aspirations of the people, the judge added.
“Constitutional provisions are required to be understood and interpreted with an object-oriented approach and not in a narrow and pedantic sense,” the judge said.
“A Constitutional mini-crisis” had been sparked by the Chief Minister which compelled the Governor to exercise the discretionary powers under Article 163, to protect democracy and rule of law, Justice Sahai noted.