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Explained: Justice RA Mehta's tumultuous 6-year quest

Thursday, 3 January 2013 - 7:29pm IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
Modi govt cried hoarse over governor bypassing CM to appoint Justice (retired) RA Mehta as state’s Lokayukta. DNA's gives an account of this controversy.

The appointment of Lokayukta has provoked controversy right from the beginning. Modi govt cried hoarse over governor bypassing CM to appoint Justice (retired) RA Mehta as state’s Lokayukta. DNA's gives an account of this controversy

Appointment process begins: The process for appointing Lokayukta began on August 7, 2006 when the state government named Justice KR Vyas as state’s Lokayukta. This came three years after Justice SM Soni retired from the post in 2003.

Governor objects to candidature: After long consultation with chief justice of Gujarat HC and other dignitaries, Guv Dr Kamla on February 6, 2009 expressed her objection to the name of Justice Vyas on grounds that he had been appointed chairman of Human Rights Commission, Maharashtra. She also recommended initiation of fresh process.

Chief justice recommends four names: On February 24, 2010, the then chief justice recommended four names for the post — justices PM Chauhan, BC Patel, RP Dholakia and JR Vora.

Modi govt selects Justice JR Vora: At a meeting of the council of ministers on March 31, 2010, all four names suggested by the chief justice were discussed. The name of Justice (rtd) JR Vora’s was approved as he was found most suitable for appointment.

Vora's name not endorsed by Governor: Justice Vora's name was not approved by the Governor because he had been appointed director of Legal Workshop and Training, Gujarat State Judicial Academy by Gujarat HC for a period of three years. Justice SD Dave's name emerged as the most suitable candidate but he refused to take charge due to personnel difficulties.

CJ names Justice RA Mehta as suitable candidate: CJ named Justice RA Mehta as a suitable candidate for the post of state’s Lokayukta. The governor also approved his name.

Now, Modi objects: On June 16, 2011, the CM wrote to CJ raising certain objections to Mehta as Lokayukta. Modi said Mehta was advanced in age (75 years) and allegedly had a fixed frame of mind because he was associated with some NGOs and social activists. CM further said Mehta had shared platform with people known for their hostility to the state government.

CJ's clean chit to Mehta: On August 2, 2011, CJ wrote to the chief minister saying that he had gathered information about the activities of Justice Mehta and that he had found nothing objectionable.

Final proposal of Mehta’s name by Governor: Dr Kamla on August 16, 2011 wrote to the chief minister and requested him to send a formal proposal for Mehta’s appointment as Lokayukta. The opposition also approved of Mehta’s name.

CM objects again: On August 18, 2011, Modi sent a letter to CJ raising several objections, including bias against the state government, to the recommendation of Mehta’s name for the post of Lokayukta.

Guv appoints Mehta as Lokayukta: Governor Dr Kamla on August 25, 2011, issued a warrant of appointment and appointed Justice RA Mehta as Lokayukta.

State govt challenges Governor’s decision: The state government challenged governor’s action on grounds that governor had acted without and contrary to the aid and advice of the council of ministers. It also contended that the governor had ignored two letters written by Modi to CJ objecting to Mehta’s appointment on grounds that Mehta was close to NGOs and social activists biased against the government.

Modi demands recall of Guv; contempt plea filed against CM: Modi wrote a letter to PM for recall of Dr Kamla. Petitioners supporting her stand filed a contempt plea against Modi but it was rejected by an HC bench.

HC bench delivered split verdict: The HC bench gave a split verdict on October 10, 2011 and on October 11, 2011 referred the matter to acting CJ VM Sahai.

Matter sent back to Gujarat CJ: On November 23, 2011, a preliminary objection was raised that as the judges of the division bench had not formulated the points on which they had differed, the reference was incompetent.

Justice Sahai begins hearing: The division bench formulated the points of disagreement on December 9, 2011 after which the case came up before Justice Sahai.

Final verdict: On January 18, 2012, Justice Sahai, gave his judgment endorsing the view of Justice Kureshi who had held the Governor’s appointment of Justice (retired) RA Mehta as Lokayukta as valid.

Gujarat govt challenges high court’s verdict: On January 19, 2012, the state government moved the Supreme Court against the Gujarat high court verdict. On February 3, 2012, the Apex Court issued notices to all respondents.

SC gives its verdict: One year later, on January 2, 2013, a bench of the Supreme Court upholds the Governor’s appointment of Justice (retired) RA Mehta as Lokayukta of Gujarat.


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