Published On:20 June 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Gujarat Lokayukta Appointment: Pandora Box for Narendra Modi government

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: At New Delhi, Baba Ramdev enacted Nautanki (Drama) about corruption in the country at the behest of BJP, but the BJP government in Gujarat led by Narendra Modi has been dragging its feet over appointing a new Lokayukta for over eight years now. It was in November 2003 that the last incumbent, retired High Court judge S M Soni, stepped down from the post. Soni was appointed the Lokayukta during the Keshubhai Patel regime in 1998.

While the Congress and the BJP are busy praising themselves in Delhi as the champions of the anti-corruption movement, pure politics by Gujarat state leaders of both the parties has delayed the appointment of Lokayukta in Gujarat. And, this despite there being a law for 26 years, providing for the appointment of Lokayukta.

In the absence of a Lokayukta in the state, complaints of corruption against ministers, chairpersons and directors of various government-owned boards/ corporations and elected representatives in local self-government bodies cannot be lodged. The vice-chancellors and pro-vice-chancellors of universities across the state, too, have been covered under the Lokayukta Act.

The Congress, meanwhile, continued to charge the Modi Government with an ulterior motive for the delay. “The state Government has been deliberately delaying the appointment of a Lokayukta.

On April 8, soon after Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi supported Anna Hazare's fast against corruption during a campaign rally in Assam, the Congress lashed out that the CM had not appointed a Lokayukta in the state for the last eight years. A day later, Jaynarayan Vyas retorted that the leader of opposition (LoP) in the state assembly, Shaktisinh Gohil, was not coming for a consultation meeting to decide on the names for the post. This had delayed the appointment of a Lokayukta, said Vyas, firmly hitting the ball back in Congress's court.

A week later, Gohil responded. At a press conference peppered with allegations of corruption against the state government, the Congress leader said the chief minister had no role in the 'consultation' for the appointment of the Lokayukta.

"The law is very clear. The Governor has to appoint the Lokayukta on the basis of consultations with the chief justice of the state's high court and the leader of opposition in the assembly. There is no provision for any consultation with the CM or his cabinet in the appointment. The CM only has to issue a notification which he is not doing as he fears his corruption will be exposed," Gohil alleged.

This was exactly two months ago. Even today - after a national movement by Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare for the Jan Lokpal Bill; the Congress swearing its allegiance to a non-corrupt administration; and a dramatic fast by Baba Ramdev (vociferously supported by the BJP) - the appointment of a Lokayukta in Gujarat is still in the limbo. Though the name of retired Justice RA Mehta for the post is believed to have been recommended to the government, a notification in this regard is yet to be issued. Meanwhile, the sound bytes by our netas are the same as they were 60 days back.

There's finally some development that may end the impasse over the appointment of Lokayukta in Gujarat. It has been learnt that the office of the chief justice of Gujarat high court has sent the name of retired justice RA Mehta to the state government for notification of his appointment to the post, reliable sources in the Congress said. Justice Mehta's name was sent to the chief minister's office about 20 days back and a response is awaited, the sources said.

Justice Mehta's name is believed to have the approval of both the Opposition Congress and the Governor. Reliable sources in the Congress said that his name was suggested because the government apparently did not accept Justice SD Dave's nomination made over six months back.

"The CM had written to the chief justice seeking the appointment of another retired judge, Justice JR Vora, as the Lokayukta. But Justice Vora's name did not have the approval of the Leader of Opposition. And, later, Justice Dave refused to take the assignment. After this the chief minister again wrote to the chief justice seeking Justice Vora's appointment as Lokayukta. But this time, Justice Mehta's name was suggested, and the last communication took place approximately 20 days back," a source said.

The buzz is that officials in the CMO are directly monitoring this matter. Sources in the Congress said that they are at the end of their tether on the issue and if Justice Mehta's name is also not accepted by the government, the Governor might be forced to use the special powers provided by the Constitution and appoint the Lokayukta.

What the Prominent Citizens Say

“Artist and social activist Mallika Sarabhai says: "Corruption here is rampant, and it is in every government department, right from the level of panchayats. That we don't have a lokayukta shows the amount of disdain the government has for the people of Gujarat."
She feels the public distribution system (PDS), the distribution of below-poverty-line (BPL) cards, the entire education system and the need to pay bribe to get decent education, as well as the healthcare system and discrepancies that exist in the area of affordable healthcare, are all affected by the deep-rooted corruption.” – Mallika Sarabhai

"Gujarat is in dire need of a lokayukta, as corruption is rampant here," says former BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta, who quit the party before the 2007 Assembly polls. "When Gujarat had the lokayukta, government officials paid attention to people's grievances, fearing action against them if they failed," he adds. When asked why the government has not yet appointed a lokayukta, he replies: "The state government fears the appointment of a lokayukta will hit its "clean image'. The lokayukta in Gujarat will blow the lid off the rampant corruption in the state." – Suresh Mehta

Ela Bhatt, founder of Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), says: "There were many visible signs of corruption in the state in the last two years and the growing discontent has started building up discontent." – Ela Bhatt

“Democracy means accountability and transpareny in governance, answering questions of the people related to government policy, public spending and government department conduct. On all these fonts the Gujarat government had remained elusive denying the Gujarati people the right to knwo, and judge the performance of its political masters. Simple crime branch statistics are denied under the Right to Information Act, the scam of the Sufalam Sujalam and the Collector's Funds are being concealed. It is important that transperency and accounatbility in governance becomes a benchmark for good and effective government.” – Teesta Setalvad of CJP

“Narendra Modi is scarred about a Lokayukta, who may go deeper into the dark alleys of Gandhinagar. Corruption is rampant in Gujarat. Also developement story is so totally screwed in favour of corporates, that those at the bottom are ruined. Yet Modi rules Gujarat by projecting himself as the saviour of Hindus against Muslims. His weakest point is 2002. He has done everything possible to delay justice for the 2002 riots. That could only have been possible with help from the judiciary, including many High Court judges. The role of Nanavati and Mehta investigating the 2002 riots, is very disturbing, to the extent that it may prove a black spot on the entire judiciary.Finally the role of IAS and IPS officers is mostly disgusting. these men of steel ( in the words of Sardar Patel), proved to be men of straw who sold their souls to Modi for a few pieces of silver. There are outstanding exceptions. I salute Sreekumar. Kuldip Sharma, Sanjiv Bhatt, Rai and a few others. They have vindicated my faith in Indian secularism.” – J.S. Bandukwala

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on June 20, 2011. Filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on June 20, 2011. Filed under , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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