Writ against Modi govt's failure to name Lokayukta
Bhikhabhai Jethwa, father of slain RTI activist Amit Jethwa, is filing a writ petition in the Gujarat high court on Thursday against the Narendra Modi government's failure to appoint a Lokayukta.
The petitioner, through his lawyer Anand Yagnik, wants the matter to be heard under Articles 14, 19, 21 and 226 of the Constitution of India.
In New Delhi, Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari supports the Anna Hazare movement for a stronger Lokpal bill but a state run by his party has been suppressing the demand for a Lokayukta appointed under the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986.
The petition says that on June 16, 2010, the additional advocate general of Gujarat had made the statement that 'the consultation process for the appointment of Lokayukta for the state of Gujarat is already over. Pursuant to the consultation, the cabinet has also taken a decision in the matter and has forwarded the same to her excellency the governor of Gujarat for taking an appropriate decision.'
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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
'Non-appointment of Lokayukta smacks of mala fide intentions'
However, after more than a year, the respondent state of Gujarat has not appointed a Lokayukta.
Jethwa's petition says, 'More than a year has passed, but the appointment of Lokayukta is not made till date and that speaks volumes about the bona fides of the statement of the learned additional advocate general and the mala fide on the part of respondent state government in not appointing a Lokayukta.'
The petitioner's contention is that, 'Either the statement of learned additional advocate general is incorrect, which is very serious as it amounts to impropriety on the part of a constitutional authority, or the respondent state of Gujarat is having cold feet in appointing a Lokayukta and thereby preventing a statutory authority from investigating into allegations of corruption, misdeeds, abuse of power and personal benefit on the part of ministers and public functionaries as defined in the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986.'
The issue is serious because Gujarat has not had a Lokayukta since 2003. Lawyer Yagnik argues that Section 3 of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986, makes it clear that it is absolutely mandatory for the state of Gujarat to appoint a Lokayukta.
The petitioner thinks the non-appointment of a Lokayukta is a deliberate and willful failure to fulfill statutory and constitutional obligations, because the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986, particularly Section 8(4), states that the Lokayukta shall not inquire into any complaint after five years from the date on which the impugned action is said to have taken place.
'There are serious complaints of corruption against Modi govt'
Thus, the non-appointment of a Lokayukta for eight years has its own consequences. The Modi government's many controversial decisions can go unchallenged without scrutiny. This is legal mala fide. Already, the local media is increasingly exposing serious cases of corruption against the Modi government.
Petitioner Jethwa says, "There are serious complaints of corruption, disposal of government and common land at throwaway prices in favour of a few industrial houses in the name of industrialisation and furthering liberalisation."
He further says, "There are complaints involving allegations of privatisation of natural resources, public resources and community resources by the state of Gujarat in the name of development and, in the process, intellectual and monetary corruption, abuse of position for a gain or otherwise and discharge of function for personal interest, besides improper and corrupt motives that are rampant."
'Freedom of expression curtailed'
However, due to the non-appointment of a Lokayukta, there is no institution in the state of Gujarat or a platform that can look into such allegations and conduct investigations into the same. Therefore, the non-appointment of Lokayukta is mala fide in fact.
Petitioner Jethwa is a small-time trader selling chappals and shoes at Khamba village, in Amreli district. He also works as a local journalist. His son Amit Jethwa, an environmentalist and public-spirited citizen who used to file public interest litigation, was murdered outside the Gujarat high court premises on July 20, 2010.
The petitioner's plea states that the 'non-appointment of a Lokayukta also unreasonably curtails freedom of expression of the petitioner and other citizens of Gujarat to vent their grievance against the corrupt actions and omissions and functions by ministers and public functionaries in as much as they do not get an effective and vibrant mechanism and platform to lodge their complaints, where they are sure that their complaints will be investigated upon and outcome of the same would be free, fair and transparent.'
Understanding the seriousness of the charges against his government, Modi has appointed an inquiry commission to be headed by retired Supreme Court judge M B Shah. The commission will probe allegations of corruption levelled by the Congress against the state government.
The Congress had submitted a memorandum to President Pratibha Patil listing serious charges against the Modi government, details of which were obtained through the RTI.