The Supreme Court Friday said it would hold final hearing March 20 on the Gujarat government’s plea challenging the state high court judgment that upheld the appointment of Justice (retd) R.A. Mehta as Lokayukta by the governor.
While admitting the petition, an apex court bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice Jagdish Singh Kheher observed: “It raises important questions of law of public importance and the bench would examine it.”
The court posted the matter of final hearing March 20. The Gujarat government had moved the Supreme Court on Jan 19, 2012, challenging a state high court verdict upholding the appointment of Justice (retd) R.A. Mehta as the state’s Lokayukta.
The petition had sought stay of the operation of the Gujarat High Court judgment of Oct 10, 2011 and had said on Jan 18 this year that the appointment of Justice Mehta was “void, ab-initio as being ultra vires Section 3 of the Act [Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986] read with Article 163 of the constitution.”
Challenging the high court judgment, the Gujarat government petition said, the governor, while exercising function under Section 3 of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986, “is to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the chief minister and is not required to exercise the said function in the individual and personal capacity and discretion.”
The petition said “it was a well settled legal position that though constitutionally, the executive power of the state was vested in the governor, but in reality the governor is always supposed to be aided and advised by the council of ministers in exercise of all the functions under the constitution”.
The petition contended that this position holds good in the exercise of powers and functions referred to under Section 3 of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986.
In the appointment of Justice Mehta as Lokayukta by Governor Kamla Baniwal, the petition said: “In the present case, there has never been any advice by the Council of Ministers for the appointment in question and that therefore on this ground alone the action under challenge deserves to be held constitutionally bad.”
The Gujarat government contended that “the concept of consultation as flowing from the Section 3 of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986, is not an empty formality and that the views and the say of the Council of Ministers of the state cannot be allowed to be suffocated.”
It said that the say of the state government in the appointment of Lokayukta “has been given a total go bye”.
The Gujarat government said that the entire proceedings leading to the appointment of Justice Mehta as Lokayukta has “suffered from the basic constitutional infirmity and procedural impropriety along with the exercise of malice in law.”
The petition assailed the high court judgment for using harsh expressions for Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the state government.
The Gujarat High Court had Jan 18 upheld Mehta’s appointment as Lokayukta by Governor Kamla Beniwal on Aug 26, 2011. For seven years prior to that, the state did not have an ombudsman.
But the Narendra Modi government questioned the appointment on the ground that the governor did not consult it on the matter.