Ahmedabad: Justice (retd) RA Mehta`s refusal to assume office of the Gujarat Lokayukta invited a strong reaction from an eminent jurist and civil rights activist who termed his decision a `betrayal` of the people of Gujarat.
"I strongly believe that by deciding not to assume the office of the Lokayukta after almost two years of his appointment and generating so many expectations, Justice Mehta betrayed the people of Gujarat," eminent jurist and leading civil rights activist Girish Patel said.
Justice R A Mehta, whose appointment as Lokayukta was opposed by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, declined to assume office yesterday, claiming that the controversy has "denigrated" the office of the anti-corruption watchdog.
A retired Gujarat High Court judge, Mehta blasted the Modi government for calling him "biased" and "anti-government", while opposing his appointment.
Reacting sharply about the reasons put forward by Mehta in his letter to the Gujarat Governor and Chief Justice of the High Court, Patel said, "When he was appointed by the Governor, he was aware of the state government`s opposition to him. For the past two years, he knew what the government thought about him. So it is wrong to decline his appointment to the Gujarat Lokayukta after four judgments upheld it".
"As a retired High Court judge with long experience in public life, he should have known that no state government has a soft approach towards an anti-corruption watchdog like the Lokayukta and that is always tends to be hostile," Patel said.
"The people of Gujarat strongly supported Mehta after the Gujarat High Court rejected the Modi government`s petition challenging his appointment and three judgments of the Supreme Court also upheld his name. So why did he wait for two long years," Patel questioned.
When asked if civil society, with which he is closely
associated, would request Mehta to withdraw his letter and take charge of the Gujarat Lokayukta, Patel said, "I think every organisation concerned about corruption in higher offices and probity in governance should sit on a dharna in front of Justice Mehta`s home".
Incidentally, general secretary of the People`s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) Gautam Thakar was also of the opinion that Justice Mehta`s refusal was an "unfortunate" decision and they would meet him in order to persuade him to withdraw his decision.
"It is very unfortunate that a person like Justice Mehta has taken this step. We plan to meet him and request him to assume the office of the Lokayukta," Thakar said.
"We had met him a couple of days ago and explained to him that since the Modi government is anti-people and hostile to the establishment of any neutral and upright Lokayukta, it would try its best to create hurdles in its functioning. Despite this, he must take up the job, since even the Supreme Court rejected the Modi government`s petition," he said.