While the Gujarat Lokayukta Act 1986 has often been criticised as a toothless tiger,the new Lokayukta,Justice (rtd) D P Buch,told The Indian Express that he would make suggestions for amendments in the Act as and when required. However,he conceded that ultimately the ball rests in court of the state government. With his appointment on Wednesday,the state got a Lokayukta after 10 years. It is also a first during the tenure of Narendra Modi as chief minister.
Buch (72) said while he is on friendly terms with his senior,Justice (retd) R A Mehta,who in August had refused to take charge as Lokayukta calling it toothless tiger,the two have not discussed this Act nor the controversy surrounding Mehta’s appointment by the Governor without consent from Council of Ministers. It may be recalled that this had paved the way for a three-year-long legal battle between the Narendra Modi government and the governor’s office.
“My predecessors have made suggestions. I have read that my immediate predecessor Justice S M Soni too made suggestions to the government regarding the Act. Some may have been discarded by the government, others may have been taken into consideration. I will go through them and put forward my suggestions also. But ultimately,the ball rests with the state government, said Buch.
Now settled in Ahmedabad,Buch who hails from Junagadh makes a point to go upto Ambaji peak in Mount Girnar in his home town during Navratri every year. He also believes that social activist Anna Hazare,the government and concerned parties should sit across the table and consider each others suggestions to come up with a Lokpal Bill.
“Law-making and amendment is a continuous process and it should be pursued by considering all suggestions,” he added.
While his appointment,as per Gujarat Lokayukta Act 1986,was finalised after recommendation by the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly followed by consent of the state Cabinet and Governor,Buch said he needed to go through details of the new Gujarat Lokayukta Commission Bill 2013 to decide if it puts the Chief Justice in a minority or not in the selection committee. This bill was passed by the Assembly and is pending with the Governor who has raised objections on several points including attempt to curtail powers of Chief Justice and Governor in selection of Lokayukta by making the Chief Minister the chairman of the selection committee.
Buch who retied from the high court in 2004,however, insists that more than the selection process,it is the law that matters. “Irrespective of whether Chief Justice or Chief Minister has done the selection,Lokayukta has to follow the Act,which is to examine,investigate and submit a report. Here the law matters.”
Born and brought up in Junagadh,Buch pursed law in Rajkot college. He said his among his priorities are short listing valid complaints that have piled up in the past 10 years. His predecessor Justice (retd) S M Soni held the office of Lokayukta until his term expired in 2003.
”I know there are tremendous expectations. We have begun shortlisting valid complaints that have piled up. We received many complaints that do not fall in the purview of Lokayukta, he said. In the absence of a Lokayukta,the government formed the M B Shah commission to investigate into 11 serious charges against the Modi government for favouring industries. These charges were levelled by the opposition Congress and the commission in its interim report has given a clean chit to the government in nine of the 11 cases.