Rathin Das | Ahmedabad | August 28, 2011
A day after the Gujarat Government moved high court, seeking quashing of the Governor’s order to appoint retired Justice RA Mehta as Lokayukta, many questions have been raised on the whole episode.
Former Justice BJ Sethna, who had resigned from high court following false allegations against him few years ago, has not only questioned the process leading to the controversial appointment but also hinted that Mehta is not as much a man of ‘integrity’as he is touted to be by the State Congress leaders.
Sethna on Saturday said under provisions of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, it is the State Government which has to begin the process of naming the incumbent for the post.
Addressing a seminar on judicial accountability organised by the Gujarat chapter of the Indian Association of Lawyers (IAL), Sethna agreed that the Governor should appoint the Lokayukta in consultation with the Chief Justice and the Leader of Opposition but said the process of recommendation of the names must begin from the Council of Ministers led by the Chief Minister.
Sethna questioned why the Opposition and the Chief Justice should insist only on one name and ignore other names short listed by the Council of Ministers.
The Chief Minister had sent a list of four names for consideration to the Chief Justice, said Sethna and asked why only one name was recommended to the Governor for appointment as the Lokayukta. “And why should the Opposition leader too insist on only one name?” asked Sethna.
He hinted that the Opposition is insisting on Mehta’s name because of his old Congress connections.
Sethna said Mehta, before being elevated as a judge in 1983, was a junior to veteran lawyer KK Vekhariya who is now the chief of the Congress legal cell in Gujarat.
Revealing the ‘other side’of the Lokayukta designate, Justice Sethna questioned Mehta’s moral authority to hold the position merely because anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare had stayed with him during his visit here in May this year, a point projected by the state Congress as one of his ‘qualification’for the high post.
Drawing parallel from Ramayana, Sethna said Mehta had done to his lawyer friend what Ravana had done to Ram. Mehta had an extra-marital affair for years with the wife of his lawyer friend and the duo finally got married only few years back, according to Sethna.
“How can a person of such ‘moral attitude’be appointed to a high post like Lokayukta. He may not be corrupt for money, but what about moral behaviour?” asked Sethna.
There is something fishy about naming Justice Mehta for the post, he said and asked why only his name was recommended while there as many as 40 retired honourable High Court judges are available in Gujarat.
Sethna said that the Congress had rejected the name of former Justice KR Vyas as the Lokayukta between 2006 and 2009, but the same person was chosen as the Lokayukta in neighbouring Maharashtra.
“How can the retired judge unfit to be Lokayukta in Gujarat be fit enough for the same post in Congress-NCP ruled Maharashtra?” asked Sethna hinting that political mud slinging is dividing the legal fraternity.
He also pointed out that the Congress has found fault with the appointment of retired Supreme Court Justice MB Shah too to look into the 17 charges against the Gujarat Government under Chief Minister Narendra Modi. “The Congress leaders have forgotten that Justice Shah has an impeccable track record and has been chosen by the Supreme Court for the panel to track black money”, Justice Sethna said adding that it was wrong to call him a ‘puppet’of the Gujarat Government.
Recounting the hue and cry over his judgement upholding the acquittal of the 21 accused in the infamous Best Bakery case of Vadodara, Sethna said he was finally proved correct when the prime witness turned hostile and went back on her words several times.
All of Gujarat’s judiciary was criticised, he lamented and said that finally all realised that Zahira cannot be relied upon as witness and she was punished. Sethna said the judiciary reserves its ruling on many vital matters for long but speedily entertains any NGO filing petitions against Gujarat.