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Gujarat questions governor's mandate in apex court

Posted on Nov 07, 10:16PM | IANS

The Gujarat government Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to refer to a larger bench the question whether Governor Kamla Beniwal could have appointed the Lokayukta while bypassing Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers.

Former Gujarat High Court judge R.A. Mehta was appointed Lokayukta Aug 25 last year.

Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Gujarat, told the apex court bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla that the matter be referred to a large bench to determine the constitutional mandate of the governor.

Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman opposed the plea saying that such a course would deprive the state of a Lokayukta for many years.

"As it is Gujarat does not have Lokayukta since 2003 and if the matter was referred to the larger bench then it would mean that the state would not have Lokayukta, God knows for how many years," Nariman said.

He told the court that it could decide the issue whether there was consultation prior to the appointment of Mehta on the basis of facts and the question whether the governor could act independently be left for the larger bench to decide.

Nariman, assisting the court and also representing Beniwal, contested the Gujarat government's claim that Mehta was appointed without completing the process of consultation.

He referred to the Gujarat government's stand that in the entire process of the appointment of Lokayukta, the primacy rested with the chief justice of the high court.

The solicitor general said that the state government could not have sought panel of names of retired judges to choose the Lokayukta. Such a course would have diluted the very assertion of the primacy of the chief justice on the appointment.

Nariman told the court that he chief justice himself inquired into the grounds of resistance by the Gujarat government in accepting Mehta as Lokayukta.

Venugopal told the court that the governor being an appointee of the ruling party in the central government could not be as independent as it was generally perceived.

The senior counsel said that there was no meeting of the minds between the governor and the chief minister on the appointment of Mehta as Lokayukta.