Gujarat government today said it would soon implement the verdict of the Supreme Court upholding the appointment of Justice
(retd) R A Mehta as Lokayukta even as Congress alleged it kept the anti-corruption ombudsman post vacant using "delaying tactics".
The judgement, which was a setback to the Narendra Modi government, was welcomed by Congress and social activists which said it was a victory of constitutional governance and the rule of law over the "arrogance of power."
Justice Mehta on his part said the state government's attitude will not be a challenge in handling his responsibilities.
"I don't think Modi government's attitude will be a challenge for Lokayukta," Mehta said in reply to a query by mediapersons on government's alleged indifferent attitude over appointment of Lokayukta in Gujarat.
"We will soon implement the Supreme Court judgement on Lokayukta," Gujarat Law Minister Bhupindersinh Chudasama told reporters in
Chudasama also sought to derive some comfort from the judgement, saying, "The Supreme Court has partially accepted Gujarat government's contention that Governor has to act as per the advice of the Council of Ministers."
The Gujarat government and the Governor were at loggerheads on the Lokayukta appointment issue. In an unprecedented move, Kamla Beniwal appointed Justice Mehta as Lokayukta in August 2011, by-passing the Narendra
Modi-led BJP government triggering a legal battle. The Lokayukta post has remained vacant for eight years.
Congress and NGOs in Gujarat while welcoming the judgement said it will expose the state government's alleged corrupt practices.
"We welcome the decision. The Governor's decision to appoint Lokayukta was legal and within her constitutional rights...Better late than never..." Former Congress Legislature Party
(CLP) leader Shaktisinh Gohil told PTI. Gohil accused the state government of using delaying tactics.
Targetting BJP, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said it has never shied away from "crying hoarse" on issues of alleged discretion and corruption across the country but was "shy of even appointing a Lokayukta when its comes to its own backyard".
BJP state spokesperson Vijay Rupani said, "Let us get a copy of the Supreme Court verdict. We will study it and then comment."
At the AICC briefing in Delhi, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said this has a raised a serious question as to "what the Gujarat government wants to hide" by opposing the appointment of Lokayukta in the state.
"It is only after the Lokayukta starts functioning that it will be clear what is the situation in Gujarat in relation to corruption. One wonders if something is happening in Gujarat on the line of what happened in Karnataka and BJP is trying to cover it up," Alvi said.
Former BJP Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa had to resign in Karnataka following corruption scandal and an adverse report by the
Lokayukta. Yeddyurappa finally parted ways with BJP.
Terming the SC verdict "historic", Keshubhai Patel-led Gujarat Parivartan Party
(GPP) demanded that "irregularities of Rs 43,000 crore and as many as 17 scams that caused loss to the tune of Rs 1.07 lakh crore to the state exchequer, as pointed out by
CAG, should be probed by the Lokayukta".
"This is a landmark judgement in Indian history as the post (of Lokayukta) was deliberately kept vacant for last eight years", GPP general secretary Gordhan Zadafia said.
"In the interest of people of Gujarat, 17 scams of Rs 1.07 lakh crore and irregularities of Rs 43,000
crore, as pointed out by Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) should be probed by the
Lokayukta", he said.
Zadafia accused the state government of "running away" from the truth, saying setting up of the M B Shah Commission under provisions of Commission of Inquiry Act was a "ploy" by the government to avoid any spotlight on the scams.
"This verdict is the slap on the face of those trying to defame the office of the Governor," Zadafia said.
Senior Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela alleged that "the BJP-led state government had not appointed the Lokayukta for the last eight years to hide their corrupt practices. They even used unconstitutional language against the Governor."
"The Gujarat government will go the Karnataka way as Lokayukta there had exposed the corrupt practices of chief minister B S
Yedyurappa," he added.