The Narendra Modi government today introduced a bill in the Gujarat assembly that attempts to overhaul the process of appointing the Lokayukta, virtually giving the full control to the state.
According to the bill, the Lokayukta will have to seek the government's permission before acting on a complaint. Also, the Lokayukta's report will not be binding on the state government.
If a complaint is found to be frivolous, the complainant will have to deposit Rs 2000 to Rs 25,000 as fine and may serve six months in jail, according to the bill.
It also says that the selection panel for the Lokayukta would include the chief minister, the assembly speaker, a minister and the leader of the opposition; thus, eliminating the role of the Governor and Chief justice of the Gujarat High Court from the appointment process.
Arjun Modhwadia, president of the Gujarat Congress says, "The government wants to create a model, which aims at promoting corruption. It doesn't want any interference from the Supreme Court or High Court."
Mr Modi has been at loggerheads with Gujarat Governor Kamala Beniwal over the appointment of Justice RA Mehta as the Gujarat Lokayuta in August 2011. Mr Modi's government had challenged Justice Mehta's appointment in the Gujarat High Court, terming it illegal and accusing the Governor of not consulting the government.
In January 2012, the Gujarat High Court upheld the Lokayukta's appointment and slammed Mr Modi, saying, "The Chief Minister acted under a false impression that he could turn down the superiority and primacy of the opinion of the Chief Justice, which was binding. The spiteful and challenging action demonstrates the false sense of invincibility."
Mr Modi's government had challenged the order in the Supreme Court, which too upheld the verdict, saying Justice Mehta's appointment was legal.