Gandhinagar: In the backdrop of setback in the Supreme Court over the appointment of Lokayukta, Gujarat Government has decided to set up a multi-member Lokayukta institution bringing state Chief Minister within its purview.
"We have decided to introduce a new Lokayukta Aayog Bill 2013 in the state Assembly on March 26," Finance Minister and state spokesperson Nitin Patel said.
The new bill, on its enactment, would replace the existing Gujarat Lokayukta Act 1989.
"As per the new provisions, for the first time, Chief Minister of the state has been brought within the purview of the Lokayukta at par with other ministers," Patel said.
He also said that, "in the draft bill, as per the recommendations of the central government and the 13th Finance Commission, proposed Lokayukta Aayog would be made into a multi-member institution with one Lokayukta and upto four Up-lokayuktas."
A judicial battle had started on the issue of Lokayukta after Governor Kamla Beniwal, going against the advice of the Chief Minister as a head of the council of ministers, had on August 25, 2011 appointed Justice (retired) R A Mehta as new Lokayukta to the post that was lying vacant for eight years.
"Procedure of selection and appointment of the Lokayukta and Up-lokayukta has been made explicit and unambiguous through a selection committee headed by the Chief Minister," Patel said.
A six-member selection panel will be headed by the Chief Minister while the Speaker of the Assembly, state Law Minister, Leader of the Opposition and two experts will be included as members.
As per the draft of the bill, the Governor is to appoint Lokayukta on the recommendation of the selection committee.
A notice was circulated today, with the copy of the draft bill, informing that Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill 2013 will be introduced in the House on March 26, 2013.
The government`s move to set up a new Lokayukta institution, however, was criticised by the Opposition.
After the Supreme Court rejected the review petition of the state government challenging the apex court order to uphold the appointment made by the Governor, the Gujarat government filed a curative petition before the Supreme Court on the issue on Monday.
The state government`s move to set up a new Lokayukta institution, even when its curative petition is pending before the Supreme Court, has generated all round criticism from the Opposition parties in the state.
Senior Congress Leader and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Shankarsinh Vaghela has slammed the state government alleging that, "this clearly shows that BJP government is corrupt and it is afraid of an independent Lokayukta in the state who would expose their corruption."
"If this government try to pass the proposed bill with its absolute majority in the House, we will oppose it tooth and nail. We will not only appeal to the Governor not to give sanction to this bill but, if needed, will fight a legal battle too," he told reporters.
Criticising the BJP government over the proposed bill, General Secretary of Gujarat Parivartan Party, Gordhan Zadafia, said, "to hide its sins, this government is planning to bring a new Lakayukta Bill which will give all powers to the Chief Minister to appoint Lokayukta. We will oppose this move through a state wide agitation."
In a setback to the Gujarat government, the Supreme Court on January 2, had upheld the appointment of Justice (retd) R A Mehta as state Lokayukta by Governor Kamla Beniwal, saying it was done in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.
The state government had challenged the Gujarat High Court order rejecting its petition which sought the appointment of Mehta be declared unconstitutional as the Governor has acted against the advice of the council of ministers.
The Governor had on August 25, 2011 appointed Justice Mehta to the post of Lokayukta.