Three weeks after the Supreme Court dismissed the Gujarat government’s curative petition challenging the appointment of Justice (retired) R A Mehta as the Gujarat Lokayukta, Mehta has declined to assume office, saying the controversy has “denigrated” the office and the “appointment has lost all the grace and dignity”.
In a letter sent to Governor Kamala Beniwal and Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya on Tuesday, Mehta said: “A Lokayukta unwanted by the government cannot get all the necessary and timely support and cooperation from the reluctant government... How can I take the responsibility and become the Lokayukta when my objectivity and credibility are not accepted by the government and by the public functionaries whose conduct the Lokayukta may have to investigate? Findings and recommendations... will always be under a question mark.”
While Mehtra confirmed that he had sent the letter, he declined to comment on the issue.
Beniwal had appointed Mehta as the Lokayukta on August 25, 2011. This was followed by a legal battle which lasted almost two years as the state government contested the appointment.
In his letter, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, Mehta has attacked the Narendra Modi government for “persistently and tenaciously” approaching the SC thrice to challenge his appointment “at huge public expense”, saying “it (the expense) may be compared to the budget for the Lokayukta office or even of the high court”. He said an estimated Rs 45 crore of public money had been spent by the Gujarat government on the case.
“The objection alleging anti-government bias really hurts. Some think that if a person is not pro-government, he is necessarily anti-government. They can’t accept that there is a third category, neither pro nor anti, but independent and neutral. Their mindset is clear — their way or no other way,” he said.
Mehta also cited the Gujarat government’s “reluctance” to notify his appointment in the state gazette even after its three petitions were rejected by the apex court.
He said even after the SC upheld his appointment, he received a letter from the Gujarat government on July 26 which did indicate any interest. “It states that ‘the Hon’ble Governor of Gujarat has appointed you as the Lokayukta...The swearing-in ceremony for the purpose needs to be organised at the Raj Bhavan...to enable you to assume office.’ As if the government has no interest or role in the matter. No invitation and no notification by the government,” said