Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013 passed by state assembly despite governor's reservations

Gandhinagar, Oct.1 : The Gujarat State Assembly passed the controversial Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill 2013 here on Tuesday, despite state Governor Kamla Beniwal expressing her reservations on some aspects of it.

The bill will again be sent to Governor Beniwal for her approval.

The Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013 proposes to give all the powers of the appointment to a selection committee headed by Chief Minister and wants the governor to act on the recommendations of this committee.

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.The Bill was passed unchanged.

In a two-page document handed over in a sealed cover last month, Governor Beniwal had raised objections to a couple of clauses, including the appointment of Lokayukta and at least four Uplokyuktas by a selection committee chaired by the Chief Minister, which she said would undermine the role of the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice in the process.

Governor Beniwal had also raised objections over presenting the investigation report to the Council of Ministers and not directly to the State Assembly, which redefines the authority and appointment of the state Lokayukta.

State Finance Minister Nitin Patel had then said that Governor Beniwal's remarks would be discussed during the monsoon session of the Assembly.

Governor Beniwal had returned the new Bill a month after the state government lost the case in the Supreme Court which upheld the appointment of Justice R.L. Mehta as Lokayukta.

The government had challenged his appointment, which was done under the existing Lokayukta Act 1986, for not consulting the council of ministers over the issue.

The new Bill proposes to repeal the existing Gujarat Lokayukta Act 1986.

The Gujarat Lokayukta Act was introduced in the state in 1986. According to this act, the lokayukta is appointed by the governor after consulting the chief justice of the state high court.

The first Lokayukta of Gujarat, S.M. Soni, resigned in 2003. Three years later, in 2006, the chief justice of the Gujarat High Court approved the candidature of Justice K.R. Vyas, whose name had been suggested by the Government of Gujarat.

The year after, Justice Vyas was appointed chairman of the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission.

In September 2009, the governor of Gujarat returned the file recommending the appointment of Justice Vyas as Lokayukta, claiming that the man was not available for the job.

In November 2009, Kamla Beniwal took charge as the new governor and soon asked the chief justice to put together a panel of personalities qualified for selecting the names of people who could become lokayukta.

The Gujarat government went to the court, claiming that the governor could not take any initiative in this matter, but only follow the recommendations of the council of ministers.

The court agreed, and Chief Minister Narendra Modi, therefore, in February 2010, asked the chief justice to suggest four names.

Among them, the council of ministers supported the name of Justice J.R. Vora.

Opponents of the chief minister objected that Vora had been preferred because, as a member of a division bench of the Gujarat High Court, he had upheld the verdict of the Vadodara fast-track court acquitting all the accused involved in the Best Bakery case of 2002 - many of whom were to be sentenced to years of jail after the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai.

--ANI (Posted on 02-10-2013)

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