The Narendra Modi government on Tuesday introduced a bill in the Gujarat assembly, which curtails the 'primacy' of the chief justice of the state high court and the governor in the matter of appointment of the Lokayukta.
The Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013 proposes to give all the powers of the appointment to a selection committee headed by the chief minister and wants the state governor to act on the recommendations of this committee.
The new bill comes after the state government lost a bitter fight legally and politically when Governor Kamla Beniwal, bypassing the state government, appointed Justice R A Mehta as the state Lokayukta, which was upheld by the high court as well as the Supreme Court in January this year.
The Supreme Court had ruled that primacy of the opinion of the chief justice of the high court in the Lokayukta Act was final.
The Gujarat government on the one hand filed curative petition against the Supreme Court order and on the other, has brought this Bill in the assembly on Tuesday.
"For the purpose of conducting investigations and inquiries in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the governor shall, by warrant under his hand and seal and, on the recommendations of a selection committee as provided below, appoint a person to be known as the Lokayukta and not more than four other persons each to be known as Up-Lokayuktas," reads the proposed section 3 of the bill.
Whereas in the existing Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986, power of selection and consequent appointment of new Lokayukta has been vested with the high court chief justice and the governor.
Section 3(1) of the 1986 Act says, "For the purpose of conducting investigation in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the Governor shall, by warrant under his hand and seal appoint a person to be known as Lokayukta."
"...Provided that the Lokayukta shall be appointed after consultation with the chief justice of the high court," it further adds.
The new bill also proposed a special provision which gives pivotal power to the state government in excluding any 'public functionaries' from the jurisdiction of the Lokayukta.
As per another significant provision (Sec 12(8)), whoever discloses to the public or to the press any information or publishes such information in contravention of the provisions of this section should invite two years' imprisonment and also a fine of Rs 2 lakh.