The Gujarat High Court Wednesday on 7th September issued notice to its registrar general, the personal secretary to the chief justice and Lokayukta R.A. Mehta seeking answers on how the contents of a letter from Chief Minister Narendra Modi to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached mediapersons.
Modi wrote to the prime minister demanding annulment of the warrant of appointment of Mehta as the Lokayukta.
The court also asked the respondents to explain their respective stands on the issue of appointment of the anti-corruption ombudsman by Sep 21, the next date of hearing.
On Aug 25, Governor Kamla Beniwal appointed Mehta as the Lokayukta allegedly bypassing the state government.
On Aug 26, the Modi government challenged the Lokayukta’s appointment in the high court.
Social organisation Jan Sangharsh Manch, represented by counsel Mukul Sinha, had also moved a plea in the court to issue notice against Modi and for “not hearing the petition filed by the government” over Lokayukta’s appointment.
The government sought to make the governor a respondent in the case but the division bench comprising Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice Sonia Gokani asked the government to file an amended petition.
In the modified plea, Beniwal’s name was removed and Mehta was made the first respondent and the registrar general of the high court was made the second respondent.
Two contempt of court petitions were filed in the high court against Modi for writing to the prime minister on the lokayukta issue and two additional petitions were filed over the inordinate delay in filling up the ombudsman’s post.
Appearing for activist Bhikhu Jethva, his counsel Anand Yagnik contended that the chief minister going public with his statements on the issue while the high court was seized of the matter amounted to interference in the functioning of the judiciary and contempt of the court.
“By consciously disclosing the letter written to the prime minister on the matter of the ongoing judicial proceedings and making it public, the chief minister has deliberately committed criminal contempt,” Yagnik had stated.
“The criminal contempt is much more serious and grave as it indirectly and by implication questions impartiality, honesty and integrity of the chief justice of the high court,” he added.
Two other public interest litigations have also been filed on the issue of Lokayukta’s appointment by the Gandhi Sena Trust and the Dhrangadhara Prakruti Mandal. Till Mehta’s appointment, the post of Lokayukta had been lying vacant in Gujarat for over seven years.