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Two contempt pleas against Modi on Lokayukta issue

Gandhinagar, Sep 5 Two contempt of court petitions were filed Monday in the Gujarat High Court against Chief Minister Narendra Modi for writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the Lokayukta issue when the issue is before the court. Two public suits were also filed over the inordinate delay in filling up the post.

All the four petitions, besides the state government’s petition challenging the appointment of Justice (retd) R.A.Mehta as the Lokayukta, will come up for hearing on Sep 7.

Appearing for rights activit Bhikhu Jethva, his counsel Anand Yagnik has contended that the chief minister going public with his statements on the issue while the high court is seized of the matter amounts to interference in the functioning of the judiciary and thus is in contempt of the court.

Modi had written to the prime minister demanding annulment of the warrant of appointment of Mehta as the Lokayukta. “By consciously disclosing the letter written to the prime minister on the subject matter of the ongoing judicial proceedings and making it public, the chief minister has deliberately committed criminal contempt,” Yagnik contended.

“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 Gujarat High Court,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Jan Sangharsh Manch represented by counsel Mukul Sinha has also moved a plea before the high court to issue a suo motto notice against the chief minister and “not hear the petition filed by the government till the CM (chief minister) purges the contempt”.

The other two PILs have also been filed by the Gandhi Sena Trust and the Dhrangadhara Prakruti Mandal.

Governor Kamla Beniwal appointed Mehta as Gujarat’s Lokayukta last month, a choice about which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led state government had reservations, making it move the high court.

The state had sought to make the governor a respondent. A division bench comprising Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice Sonia Gokani had asked the government to file an amended petition as its plea could not be accepted under Article 361 of the constitution.

Advocate Vijay Nagesh said that as the governor could not be a respondent to the petition, Beniwal’s name had been removed. Now the first respondent would be Mehta and second the registrar general of the high court.

For over seven years, the post of Lokayukta has been lying vacant in Gujarat. In June 2011, the chief justice recommended Mehta’s name. The state government asked him to rethink his choice, but the same name came up again Aug 2.

The Gujarat High Court had earlier issued notice to the state government in a public suit pleading for the appointment of a Lokayukta. It was filed by Bhikhu Jethva, father of Right To Information (RTI) activist Amit Jethva who was shot dead opposite the Gujarat High Court last year.

Earlier Amit Jethva too had filed a similar plea in the high court. The state government had then said that the process was nearing completion but nothing came of it.


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