Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan on Tuesday said the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government stands 'exposed' after it compiled a proposal to amend the state’s Lokayukta Commission Bill to leave the Lokayukta powerless, extracting all prosecutorial powers from the position.
"Obviously, he does not want the various scams of Gujarat to be independently investigated. In Gujarat, he has given two lakh acres of land to one company, Adani, for Re 1 to Rs 16 per square yard, when the adjoining land has been giving to war widows for thousands of rupees per square yard. And yet he claims that he runs the most honest government in the country. I mean, this exposes his claims totally," Bhushan said.
Targetting Modi, Bhushan said the Gujarat chief minister has been against the transparency of the position of the Lokayukta in the state, and cited the events leading to Justice R A Mehta’s resignation from the position as an example.
"For ten years, Modi has not allowed a Lokayukta to be appointed in Gujarat. Justice Mehta was nominated by the chief justice but he fought this tooth and nail right up to the Supreme Court, filing a review petition and then a curative petition. Eventually, Justice Mehta resigned in frustration," Bhushan said.
"Now, Modi has amended the Lokayukta Act of Gujarat in a manner to make the Lokayukta totally useless. Now the Lokayukta will be appointed essentially by the government. The Lokayukta will have no power of investigation against anybody who the government does not want him to investigate," he said.
"The Lokayukta will have only recommendatory powers, no powers of prosecution. The Lokayukta's proceedings will be kept secret. Any false complaint will be punishable with severe imprisonment. Therefore, what’s the point of having this Lokayukta," he added.
Bhushan also slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party for adopting ‘double standards’ on their stance on corruption.
"On one hand, the BJP claims that they want an independent Lokpal and criticise the Congress government for not bringing in an independent Lokpal. Of course, the Congress government is equally guilty in not bringing in an independent Lokpal. But, the BJP’s double standards are obvious, in the manner in which their supreme leader Modi has amended the Lokayukta Act of Gujarat," he said.
Earlier, Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal had rejected and sent back the proposed Gujarat Lokayukta Commission Bill, which seeks to give all powers pertaining to the appointment of the state Lokayukta to the chief minister and to the state assembly.
The proposed bill proposes to virtually end the role of the governor and the chief justice of the high court in appointing the Lokayukta.
In August, after a long-drawn and controversial battle with the Gujarat state government in court, Justice Mehta had refused to take up the position of Lokayukta, saying that he felt unwelcome by the state government.
"A Lokayukta unwanted by the government cannot get all the necessary and timely support from a reluctant government," Justice Mehta said.
"How can I take responsibility and become the Lokayukta when my objectivity and credibility are not accepted by the government and public functionaries whose conduct the Lokayukta may have to investigate," Justice Mehta added.
"Rs 45 crore of public money is said to have been spent by the Gujarat government in this litigation. This is a humongously disproportionate figure by any standard," Justice Mehta wrote in the letter.
The Modi-led Gujarat government had long argued that the appointment of Lokayukta by Governor Kamla Beniwal was "illegal" as it was done without consulting the state government.
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