Facts on the Gujarat Lokayukta issue
Appointment of Lokayukta in Gujarat: Hard Facts and Sequence of Events
The sequence of events as a matter of fact right from the appointment of Lokayukta in Gujarat, as per different aspects of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, with a view to intentionally creating controversy and spreading canards, heaping all blames onto the State Government, are as follows:
- The State Government has made continuous efforts for the appointment of Justice R.A. Mehta as the Lokayukta after the Supreme Court’s final order. Since the very beginning, Justice R.A. Mehta had intentionally expressed the desire not to join as a party during the entire legal proceedings in Gujarat High Court or the Supreme Court. This shows his predetermination not to accept the job since very beginning.
- And, yet, he sent letters to the Governor and the Chief Justice of India, blaming the Government for not accepting the job, and leaked the letter to the Mass Madia, unbecoming of a legal expert.
- The true report presented herein is self-explanatory. The present Government has all along faithfully followed a clear policy in the process of appointment of Lokayukta despite several obstructions.
- Seven years ago in 2006, the State Government had in a letter to the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court sought his opinion and comments on suggestion of ex-Chief Justice of Mumbai High Court Justice Mr. K.R. Vyas as Lokayukta of Gujarat. The Governor was also requested to suggest appointment of Justice Mr. K.R. Vyas. The request was returned by Raj Bhawan after a few months with certain queries.
- The Governor was requested again with explanations to the queries to recommend the name of Justice Mr. K.R. Vyas. Even this was also promptly returned by the Governor.
- In September 2009, the Governor refused the request for appointment of Justice Mr. K.R. Vyas as the Lokayukta, along with sending a confidential letter to Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court to suggest a panel of names for the Lokayukta of Gujarat. Immediately afterwards, the Chief Minister invited the Leader of the Opposition to be present at the meeting for selection of likely names. But, unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition returned the invite. Looking to the dignity of the post of Lokayukta, the Chief Minister sent repeated invites to the Leader of the Opposition to attend the meetings, but the latter intentionally raised objections to delay the decision.
- The Governor independently discussed the matter with the Leader of the Opposition, without intimating the Chief Minister. When the State Government sought to know the reasons for such an act, the Governor ignored.
- When the Leader of the Opposition expressed his inability to attend a meeting convened by the Chief Minister on March 5, 2010 to carry forward the formal procedures for the appointment of the Lokayukta, the Chief Minister invited the Governor to attend the rescheduled meeting on March 8, 2010.
- The Chief Minister convened yet another meeting on March 22, 2010 to ensure the cooperation of the Leader of the Opposition, but the latter refused to attend on the ground that he was not consulted while inviting the Governor.
- At the formal meeting on March 22, 2010 with the Chief Minister in chair to discuss the four names suggested, the Chief Justice with reference to his letter of February 24, 2010 informed that only Justice Mr. J.R. Vora is available for the appointment and recommended his name for the post. Subsequently, the State’s Council of Minister sent the name of Justice J.R. Vora on March 31, 2010 for appointment as the Lokayukta for the Governor’s consent.
- About five weeks later, the Governor decided to refer the matter to the Gujarat High Court without intimating the Chief Minister.
- About seven months later, the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court informed that Justice Mr. J.R. Vora has been appointed elsewhere as the Director of Gujarat State Judicial. Obviously, the State Government was neither taken into confidence nor informed about this appointment. Rather, the Chief Justice suggested yet another name of Justice Mr. S.D. Dave for appointment as the Lokayukta.
- While the State Council of Ministers had given its consent on the name of Justice J.R. Vora, the Governor had for the first time cared to inform the Gujarat Government on June 7, 2010 that the Governor and the Chief Justice had held a parallel process in which Justice Mr. Dave’s name had emerged as the Lokayukta of Gujarat for which immediate action be taken.
- Following which the State Government through the Chief Minister informed the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court that the State Government considers the appointment of Justice Mr. Dave as inconsistent, inappropriate and improper as he was reluctant to take the responsibility. At the same time, the State Government called for reconsideration of Justice J.R. Vora for appointment as the Lokyaukta.
- However, the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court ignored the State Government’s request and a through a letter dated June 7, 2011 announced the appointment of Justice Mr. R.A. Mehta. As a sequel to this, the Chief Minister sent a letter to the Chief Justice on June 16, 2011 to reconsider the name of Justice Mr. J.R. Vora whose name was also there in the panel of names as suggested by the Chief Justice.
- On August 18, 2011, the Chief Minister again requested for suggesting to the Government the name of some other freshly retired Judge for nomination as the Lokayukta.
- In the meantime, the Governor issued warrant on August 25, 2011 appointing Justice Mr. RA Mehta as the Lokayukta of Gujarat, in violation of administrative procedures and constitutional dignity.
- Thus, the recommendations of the State Council of Ministers and provisions of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act were ignored during the entire procedure.
- Was this procedure just and right?
- The State Government was left with no other option but to file an appeal in the Gujarat High Court challenging the warrant of appointment of Justice Mr. R.A. Mehta.
It is pertinent to explain the procedures followed in the entire process
- As per Article 163 of the Constitution, the incumbent Governor is bound to accept the Council of Ministers’ recommendations and suggestions. And, yet, the Governor appointed Mr. Justice Mr. R.A. Mehta as the Lokayukta. The Supreme Court in its judgment on January 2, 2013 noted the State Government’s arguments on this count … The Governor was wrongly given to understand that consulting the Attorney General of India, without taking the State’s Council of Ministers into confidence was as a Constitutional Head and not as the Head of the State.
- Since the Supreme Court in its judgment of January 2, 2013 set aside the State Government’s appeal, the State Government’s Law Minister acknowledged the appointment and deputed General Administration Department Secretary Mr. K. Srinivas and State’s Advocate-General Mr. Kamal Trivedi to deliver formal invite to Justice Mr. R.A. Mehta at his residence on January 6, 2013 to inform about the State Government decision and accept the offer.
- In deference to the Supreme Court judgment, the State Government sincerely made all efforts for the appointment of Justice Mr. R.A. Mehta to the post.
- The designated Lokayukta Justice Mr. R.A. Mehta was given a copy of the prevalent details about the office premises and staff during the meeting at his residence on January 6, 2013. It was also conveyed to him that all necessary changes and additions would be made in the office premises after he takes ove the post.
- The designated Lokayukta was also conveyed that adequate provisions would be made in the next State Budget for all expenses, increasing the amount from Rs.33.40-lakh as in 2009-10 to Rs.63.40-lakh.
- Apart from all these, indent was also submitted for related arrangements for the office and a new car.
- Thus, the State Government left no stone unturned to make all prearrangements and extended all cooperation for the Lokayukta to join duty.
- The procedure of issuing notification and appointment were in conformity, as followed by oath of office for President of India or Governors of States or High Public Posts completed after swearing-in ceremony, and a notification to inform the public. The procedure is the same is office of the Governor, Chief Minister and Council of Ministers, etc.
- For instance, President of India had issued warrant of appointment of Governor Dr. Shrimati Kamla on November 21, 2009, the warrant was handed over by the President’s Secretary on November 24, 2009 and Dr. Shrimati Kamla took oath of office on November 27, 2009 and the notification was issued the same day.
- The same procedure of oath of office was being followed in this case of Lokayukta also. The Governor of Gujarat issued the warrant of appointment. No sooner than the judgment on legal procedure, the State Government sent GAD Secretary Mr. K. Srinivas as the emissary with a letter on July 26, 2013 to suggest time of swearing-in ceremony as per the incumbent’s convenience, the notification to be issued subsequently.
- While the letter was being delivered at Justice Mr. R.A. Mehta’s residence it came to light that he had gone abroad and would return around August 6.
- Thus, just when the State Government was making all preparations for the swearing-in ceremony and Roads & Building Department was busy building and renovating the Lolayukta Office, the designated Lokayukta sent letters to the Governor and Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court refusing the offer and releasing the letter to the Mass Media as well. How far is it reasonable and right?
What is all the more unfortunate is Justice Mr. R.A. Mehta’s seven-page letter showing insignificant reasons to refuse the post of Lokayukta with a view to intentionally satisfying his ego to foil seven years of State Government’s sincere efforts to put in place the office of Lokayukta.