Skip to main content

Gujarat govt has denigrated the office of Lokayukta, how can I join?, wonders Justice RA Mehta

By Our Representative
Even as declaring that he is unwilling to take charge as Gujarat Lokayukta, in a strongly worded letter to Gujarat governor Dr Kamla and Gujarat High Court chief justice Baskar Bhattacharya, Justice RA Mehta (retired) has declared that he is doing so because the Gujarat government has gone of the way to “denigrated” the high office. Justice Mehta’s appointment, which went controversial after Dr Kamla took a suo motu decision to appoint him as Lokayukta following the Gujarat chief minister’s reluctance, was cleared by the Supreme Court recently. The apex court dismissed the BJP government's curative petition against Lokayukta appointment in July third week.
Saying that he could not persuade himself “to accept the office of Lokayukta”, Justice Mehta underlined, a whopping Rs 45 crore of public money was spent by the Gujarat government in the litigations pursued against him by the Gujarat government over the last two years, first in the Gujarat High Court and then in the Supreme Court. This is “a humongously disproportionate figure by any standard”. Even after spending so much, he added, “The highest courts in the state and in the country have upheld the appointment and repeatedly negatived all contentions (including that of bias) against my appointment as Lokayukta.”
Saying that all this reveals the “mindset and attitude displayed by the state government”, he cited several examples to prove his point. First, the Gujarat government came up with a draft ordinance during the pendency of the petition to amend the scheme of the appointment of Lokayukta in order to “to exclude the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice and load the selection committee with majority of the ruling party and giving primacy to the political executive.”
This was rejected by the Gujarat governor. Then, “a large number of complaints against public functionaries were sent to the commission of inquiry so as to exclude them from being investigated by the Lokayukta.” This was followed by the new Lokayukta Bill, passed by the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, “again to exclude the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice and load the selection committee with majority of the ruling party and giving primacy to the political executive” – which again has “not assented to by the governor”.
Even after three judgments of the Supreme Court, the Gujarat government showed “reluctance” to “notify the Lokayukta appointment in the official Gujarat Government Gazette”, which “is surprising but not unexpected”, Justice Mehta said, adding, the letter sent to him by the Gujarat government dated July 26, 2013 (delivered at his Ahmedabad residence while he was in the US) “does not indicate any invitation or interest by the government.” He underlined, “It states that ‘the Hon'ble Governor of Gujarat has appointed you as the Loltayukta… The swearing in ceremony for the purpose needs to be organized at the Raj Bhavan to enable you to assume the office’, as if the government has no interest or role in the matter!” There is “no invitation and no notification by the government!”
Justice Mehta said, all this suggests the way the state government wants to treat the institution of Lokayukta. “I humbly believe that the high office of Lokayukta and its occupant (who is expected to inquire into the complaints against high pubic functionaries, including the Chief Minister) are entitled to utmost respect, dignity and grace to enable their to function effectively and perform the great public duty and to carry public credibility of the institution. When powerful elements do not care to maintain that effectiveness and credibility, the institution and its occupant suffer in their credibility, effectiveness and utility.” All this gives the impression that “the government wants the office of the Lokayukta to be their caged parrot.”
Justice Mehta emphasized, “The present controversy has denigrated the office of the Loltayukta and adversely affected its credibility. The appointment has lost all the grace and dignity. The objection alleging anti-government bias (though negatived by the courts) really hurts. Some think that if a person is not pro-government, he is necessarily anti-government. They can't accept that there is third category, neither pro nor anti, but independent and neutral. Their mindset is clear – their way or no other way.”
Fearing that given such a situation, when the “Lokayukta has to depend on the reluctant non-cooperative government for all infrastructure, staff, budget etc. and to beg or fight for it”, he said, “In this scenario the Loltayukta will not able to function effectively and to fulfill high public expectations. A lot of public awareness is generated about corruption of public functionaries. Allegations are widely made. In the absence of any independent credible investigation, the allegations may linger and stick. Many eminent public spirited and honest people are averse to becoming public functionaries in such climate of public life.”
He concluded, “A Lokayukta unwanted by the government cannot get all the necessary and timely support and cooperation from the reluctant government. The Lokayukta will be rendered ineffective, and the great public expectations would be frustrated; and I would be at the receiving end for being ineffective and failure. I frankly admit that I will not be able to fulfill the public duty, public need and high public expectation from the Lokayukta in the circumstances. How can I take the responsibility and become the Lokayukta when my objectivity and credibility are not accepted by the government and by the public functionaries whose conduct the Lokayukta may have to investigate? Findings and recommendations – for or against a public functionary – will always be under question mark.”

Comments

TRENDING

'Enough evidence': Covid vaccines impacted women's reproductive health

By Deepika*  In 2024, the news outlets have suddenly started reporting about covid vaccine side effects in a very extensive manner. Sadly, the damage is already done.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Dadi, poti discuss 'injustice' under 10 yr Modi rule: Video campaign goes viral

By Our Representative  Watan Ki Raah Mein, a civil society campaign of the Samvidhan Bachao Nagrik Abhiyan, has released a short video conversation on social media of an exchange of letters between a dadi and her poti discussing poverty, unemployment, corruption and women’s safety. The letters also raise the question of  suppression of our fundamental rights of speech, expression and justice. 

US 'frustrated' with India’s discomfort: Maritime exercise in South China Sea

By Vijay Prashad*  In early April 2024, the navies of four countries -- Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States -- held a maritime exercise in the South China Sea. Australia’s Warramunga, Japan’s Akebono, the Philippines’ Antonio Luna, and the United States’ Mobile worked together in these waters to strengthen their joint abilities and -- as they said in a joint statement  -- to “uphold the right to freedom of navigation and overflight and respect for maritime rights under international law.” 

'Uncertainty in Iran': Raisi brokered crucial Chabahar Port deal with India

By Pranjal Pandey*  Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian President, and the country’s foreign minister were tragically found deceased on May 20, 2024, shortly after their helicopter crashed in foggy conditions. In response, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly appointed a relatively unknown vice president as the interim leader.

Informal, outdoor workers 'excluded': Govt of India's excessive heat policies

Counterview Desk  Top civil rights network, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), has demanded urgent government action to protect millions of outdoor workers from extreme heat and heatwaves, insisting declaration of heatwaves as climatic disaster.

Desist from academic censorship, stop threatening scholars: Letter to ICMR

Counterview Desk  In a letter to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director, the Universal Health Organisation (UHO) which consists of prominent health experts, has insisted that the Government of India’s top medical research agency should lead high quality research on vaccine safety and “desist from academic censorship”.

WHO move can 'enable' India to detain citizens, restrict freedom, control media

Counterview Desk  In an an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with copies to concerned Cabinet ministers, bureaucrats and MPs,  health rights network  People’s Alliance for Public Health (PAPH alias JanSwasthya Morcha), has urged that India should not be a signatory to the World Health Organization ( WHO) Pandemic Agreement and Amendments to the  International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005  to be adopted at the 77th World Health Assembly in Geneva from 27th May to 1st June, 2024.

Vaccine nationalism? Covaxin isn't safe either, perhaps it's worse: Experts

By Rajiv Shah  I was a little awestruck: The news had already spread that Astrazeneca – whose Indian variant Covishield was delivered to nearly 80% of Indian vaccine recipients during the Covid-19 era – has been withdrawn by the manufacturers following the admission by its UK pharma giant that its Covid-19 vector-based vaccine in “rare” instances cause TTS, or “thrombocytopenia thrombosis syndrome”, which lead to the blood to clump and form clots. The vaccine reportedly led to at least 81 deaths in the UK.