Ahmedabad: A two-judge bench of the Gujarat High Court, Monday, delivered a split verdict on a petition filed by the state government challenging the appointment of Lokayukta by Governor Dr Kamala Beniwal.
Judge Akil Kureshi of the bench was of the view that the Governor was well within her rights to appoint the Lokayuka. However, the second judge Sonia Gokani rejected the appointment.
In view of the divergent views, the matter was referred to a constitutional bench of the court.
The Governor had appointed Justice RA Mehta as the state`s new Lokayukta on August 25. Since then, the Governor and the Modi government have been at loggerheads. The same day, the state government challenged the Governor`s decision before the high court.
Importantly, the Governor has returned as many as five bills in the last three years passed by the state Assembly.
The state government had contended that the Governor cannot appoint the Lokayukta with consulting the state government as it feels that such a move violates Article 163 of the Constitution.
The state government had suggested that the Lokayukta be selected by a committee that included three ministers, the Leader of the Opposition Congress party, and the state`s Chief Justice. The Governor had rejected that proposal.
The post of Lokayukta has been lying vacant since 2003 after Lokayukta SM Soni retired. It took the Modi government three years to approve a replacement suggestion, but the then Gujarat Governor rejected the suggestion on technical grounds.