Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has "reasonable apprehension" on the appointment of Justice (retd) R A Mehta as Lokayukta by Governor Kamla Beniwal as the former judge had made public statements against the state government prior to his appointment, an NGO has told the Supreme Court.
Ahmedabad-based NGO National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), through senior advocate Soli J Sorabjee, cited alleged instances to suggest that Justice Mehta would not be able to excercise his functions "objectively" and with "impartiality".
He submitted before a bench headed by Justice B S Chauhan that Justice Mehta, who is also a trustee of NGO Centre for Social Justice, had made utterances criticising the state government's alleged "wrong policies".
Further, the NCCL, which has filed its petition through its President V K Saxena, submitted that the former judge, as a member of a panel, had criticised the government for not fulfilling its responsibility in rehabilitating the 2002 riot-affected people.
Quoting these and other instances, Sorabjee, who was assisted by advocate Unmesh Shukula, told the bench that "the chief minister could well have reasonable apprehension that Justice Mehta has disabled himself from excercising his functions objectively and with impartiality."
The Centre, however, has contended that there should not be any interference with the high court order and the appeal filed by the state government and the NGO was devoid of merit.
Besides the statements on the state government's alleged "wrong policies" and rehablitation of riot-affected people, the NGO said that the retired judge, as a member of a jury, had issued a communique at the end of a public meeting "which contained statements which are antagonistic to the state".
Alleging that the past conduct of the Lokayukta reflected bias against the state government, the NCCL said, "If a person by his conduct or utterances has evinced antipathy toward another person or body or entity or has expressed disapprobation in that case, a reasonable person may well have a reasonable apprehension of bias."
Earlier, in a written statement, the NGO had contended that the appointment of Justice Mehta as the Lokayukta of the state was in "breach of law" and "in defiance of the ministerial advice."
The state government had said the governor has to act on the advice of the Cabinet and its consent is must for the appointment of Lokayukta.
It had argued that the appointment was done by Governor Beniwal without following due procedure in an unconstitutional manner.
The state government had also said the governor had exercised his personal discretion unilaterally and issuing of the warrant of appointment of Lokayukta by him was "unwarranted".
The governor had on August 25, 2011 appointed Justice Mehta to the post of Lokayukta, which had been lying vacant for the last eight years.
The high court had on January 18 rejected the Gujarat government's plea against the appointment, three months after it had given a split verdict.
Justice V M Sahai, who decided the matter as a third judge had said the "pranks" played by the chief minister on the Lokayukta issue "demonstrates deconstruction of our democracy."