Why no Lokayukta for 7 years, HC asks state govt

* Notice comes on a petition by Bhikha Jethava, father of slain RTI activist Amit Jethava

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday issued a notice to the state government asking it to explain the non-appointment of Lokayukta for the past seven years and more than a year after Additional Advocate General (AAG) assured the court that the steps for Lokayukta's appointment had already been initiated.

A division bench comprising Justices Akil Kureshi and Sonia Gokani, which issued the notice, has kept the next hearing for August 29.

The notice came on a petition moved by Bhikha Jethava, father of slain RTI activist Amit Jethava who was shot dead outside the HC premises in July last year.

Through his advocates Anand Yagnik and Vijay Nangesh, the petitioner has contended that ever since the last Lokayukta's term ended in 2003, the state government has kept the constitutional post vacant.

Jethava added the ministers and other government functionaries in Gujarat felt no accountability for their actions and omissions in the absence of a Lokayukta.

A similar petition was moved by late Amit Jethava in 2010. On June 16, 2010, AAG Tushar Mehta had told the court that the process to appoint the Lokayukta had been initiated and the Cabinet decision had already been forwarded to the Governor for taking appropriate decision. Following this, the petition was disposed of by a division bench of Justices Bhagwati Prasad and J C Upadhayay, which called it "rendered infructuous".

Now, Jethava Senior has argued that either the state government had developed "cold feet" in appointing Lokayukta or the statement of AAG was incorrect, which was very serious as it amounted to impropriety on the part of a constitutional authority.

The petitioner has cited a provision of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act according to which the ombudsman cannot inquire into any complaint after five years from the date on which the action complained is alleged to have been taken place.

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