Govt asks Lokayukta to take charge

A day after the Supreme Court upheld the appointment of Justice (retired) R A Mehta as the Lokayukta of Gujarat, the state government has officially approached Mehta requesting him to take charge of the office.

Meanwhile, Mehta, on his part, said he has not decided as yet on when to take charge.

Advocate General Kamal Trivedi and a secretary-level officer of the General Administration Department (GAD) visited Mehta at his residence Thursday. Confirming this, Mehta said, "They requested me to take charge of the Lokayukta office on behalf of the state government."

Top GAD official Harsh Brahmbhatt said the Advocate General and secretary (personnel) of GAD had gone to see Mehta and requested him to take charge of the office. Trivedi could not be contacted.

Mehta was appointed in August 2011 by Governor Kamla Beniwal, who overruled the state government led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi. This had resulted into a landmark legal fight over Mehta's appointment, which ended Wednesday when the Supreme Court upheld the appointment and dismissed the state government's appeal.

Jaitley slams Supreme Court verdict

In a stinging criticism of the Supreme Court's verdict on the appointment of Gujarat Lokayukata, top BJP leader Arun Jaitley Thursday strongly objected to the court's reasoning granting primacy to the opinion of the High Court Chief Justice, saying this logic gives "exclusivity" to the Chief Justice rendering opinions of the Chief Minister and the Leader of Opposition "completely redundant and otiose" which is fraught with risks for the constitutional balance of power.

"The judgment has evolved the role of the Chief Justice from being privy to the consultation process to one of 'primacy' and eventually to 'exclusivity' thus rendering role of the other constitutional authorities as 'insignificant'. The net and inevitable consequence of the reasoning offered by the judgment is that the opinion of the Chief Justice of the High Court prevails. The opinion of the other constitutional authorities such as the Chief Minister, the Leader of Opposition is not relevant. They are unsuitable to give an opinion on retired judges. Only judges can opine on judges," Jaitley said in a signed article "to protest against the usurpation of executive powers of an elected government".

Jaitley, in this context, also voiced serious disagreement with the underlying assumption of the verdict that the Chief Justice is the "best person" to judge suitability of a retired judge for the post of Lokayukta. For this purpose, he mounted a veiled charge against the judicial appointments system, highlighting that "the system of judges alone appointing judges and the judges alone judging judges has not worked satisfactorily" and this mechanism has come to seen as a "failed system" within the country.

The Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha also rejected the purposive interpretation of Gujarat's Lokayukta Act by the court, saying that the rule of "strict interpretation must apply" in this case because the language of the relevant section regarding the appointment has "no ambiguity" and was very "clear" that the Governor "must grant approval" to the Cabinet recommendation.

"When the language is clear, the rule of strict interpretation must apply. It is the Chief Minister who has to consult the Chief Justice of the High Court and the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. The key instrumentality in the consultation is the Chief Minister. He has to engage in the consultation. The Governor is the fourth agency who must grant approval on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers," Jaitley said.

"The judgment creates an imbalance in the separation of powers. By judicial interpretation the courts will eliminate the role of other Constitutional authorities and give to themselves the exclusive power," he said, voicing his objections to verdict delivered on Wednesday.

Jaitley, in this context, has extrapolated how this reasoning of the apex court will render the opinions of Prime Minister, the Speaker of Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and an eminent jurist "silent spectators" in the collegium envisaged for the appointment of chairpersons and members of proposed Lokpal for which the opinion of the Chief Justice of India will take "primacy and exclusivity".

In contrast, Jaitley also pointed to Supreme Court's censure to the Governor for taking the "dissenting opinion" of the state Cabinet as "the aid and advice" brushing aside the established principle of acting on the advice of the Cabinet.

"The judgement is based on this paradox. Gujarat will now have a Lokayukta whom the Council of Ministers never recommended. Constitutional short-cuts do not establish either good governance or good precedents," Jaitley said.

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