Modi govt to bring Lokayukta Aayog Bill, oppn fumes

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 08:45

Gandhinagar: The new Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill 2013, which the state government is all set to bring in the Assembly next week, seeks to completely curtail the `primacy` of the Chief Justice of the High Court in the appointment of Lokayukta or Up-lokayukta in the state.

Narendra Modi-led government, after losing the judicial battle against the appointment of justice (retired) R A Mehta made by Governor Kamla Beniwal, has also planned to keep Governor away from the selection or `consultation` process of the new Lokayukta and/or Up-lokayukta in the state.

Section 3 of the proposed multi-member Lokayukta Aayog Bill, which also intends to repeal the current Gujarat Lokayukta Act of 1986, proposes to give all the powers of the appointment to a selection committee headed by the Chief Minister and wants the Governor to act on the recommendations of this committee.

"For the purpose of conducting investigations and enquiries in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the Governor shall, by warrant under his hand and seal and, on the recommendations of a Selection Committee as provided below, appoint a person to be known as the Lokayukta and not more than four other persons each to be known as Up-Lokayuktas," reads the proposed section 3 of the Bill.

Whereas in the existing Gujarat Lokayukta Act, power of selection and consequent appointment of new Lokayukta has been vested in the hands of High Court Chief Justice and the Governor.

Section 3(1) of the existing Act says, "For the purpose of conducting investigation in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the Governor shall, by warrant under his hand and seal appoint a person to be known as Lokayukta."

"...Provided that the Lokayukta shall be appointed after consultation with the Chief Justice of High Court," it further adds.

Significantly, both Gujarat High Court, with its 2-1 majority judgement and Supreme Court has upheld the primacy of the opinion of Chief Justice of High Court in the appointment of Lokayukta and had rejected Gujarat Government`s petition challenging the appointment of Mehta by the state Governor.

In its January 2, 2013 judgement, a bench of justices BS Chauhan and F M Ibrahim Kalifulla of the Supreme Court, while dismissing the state government`s plea that the appointment was illegal as it was done without consulting it, held that the appointment was legal as it was done in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.
Further intending to curb the role of the Chief Justice of HC, state government has not even included the Chief Justice in the selection committee.

As proposed in the section 3(2) of the bill, Chief Minister would be the Chairperson of the selection committee while Speaker of the Assembly, one minister nominated by the Chief Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Vigilance Commissioner of the state would be members of this committee.

For the inclusion of a member from the judicial side this bill proposes that, the selection committee shall also comprise "one judge of the High Court of Gujarat, to be nominated by the Chief Justice of the HC in consultation with the collegiums of five Senior Judges."
This bill also proposed a special provision which gives pivotal power to the state government in excluding any `public functionaries` from the jurisdiction of the Lokayukta.

As per another significant provision (Sec 12(8)), whoever discloses to the public or to the press any information or publishes such information in contravention of the provisions of this section should invite two years` imprisonment and also the fine of RS two lakh.

The Speaker of the House today announced the proposed Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013 has been scheduled to be tabled in the Assembly on April 2, 2013.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 08:45

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