Narendra Modi introduces well-diluted lokpal bill for Gujarat

The Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government today introduced a bill in the state Assembly which seeks to undo the primacy of the high court chief justice and the governor in the appointment of a lokpal, or state-level anti-corruption watchdog.

If passed, the Lokayukta Aayog Bill 2013 would give all the powers of appointing a lokpal to a six-member committee headed by Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The state's governor would have to act on the recommendations of the committee.

The new bill comes after the state government lost a bitter legal and political battle when governor Kamla Beniwal bypassed the government to appoint retired judge R A Mehta as the Gujarat lokayukta.

The appointment was upheld by the Gujarat High Court as well as the Supreme Court. In January this year, the apex court had ruled that the primacy of the opinion of the chief justice of the high court as contained in the central Lokayukta Act was final.

The Gujarat government has brought this bill in the Assembly even as it has filed a curative petition against the Supreme Court order.

The new bill also has a provision which gives power to the state government to exclude 'public functionaries' from the jurisdiction of the lokayukta.

The opposition in the state is vociferous against the bill.

Arjun Modhwadia, president of the Congress in Gujarat, accused the Modi government of introducing a bill that allows the corrupt to go scot free. ''We will protest against this in Parliament," he said.

Modhwadia also said the bill allows the chief minister to get all reports from the lokayukta and declare any accused innocent