Retired justice RA Mehta, whose appointment as Gujarat lokayukta was opposed by Narendra Modi, declined to assume office blaming it for his appointment losing the "all the grace and dignity."
But Modi's key aides held that the administration had set the process rolling for his swearing-in ceremony as soon as the state government's curative petition, challenging the Supreme Court's verdict upholding his appointment by governor Kamla Beniwal by passing the state government, was dismissed on July 18.
K Srinivas, secretary of Gujarat general administrative department, wrote to Mehta on July 26 to indicate a list of "suitably convenient dates" so that the Raj Bhavan could be informed for the swearing-in ceremony.
In January this year too, even after the apex court dismissed the state government's plea, chief minister Narendra Modi asked advocate general Kamal Trivedi to "personally visit" Mehta, along with Srinivas, to request him to take charge.
At no stage of the hearing of its petition, the state government sought a stay of Mehta's appointment.
Even after the appointment was first challenged in the High Court in September 2011, there was no stay of his appointment, Gujarat officials held.
They said the Modi government's opposition to Mehta was not about his "credibility" but about the governor's action in appointing lokayukta without consulting it, which was taken up all way up to the apex court.
Finally, it ruled that her action was valid because the Chief Justice of the High Court was consulted though she was "wrongly advised" not to consult the council of ministers. The state government accepted it with “utmost respect.”
Key aides close to Modi said the state government had never before the Gujarat High Court or the Supreme Court alleged bias against Mehta nor had stated anything against him. Its contentions were limited to the powers of the governor to appoint lokakyukta.
"Once the state government lost the case, it accepted the judgement of the apex court with utmost respect and time and again, requested Mehta to assume charge," said an official.
Why did the Modi government press for a curative petition if it was not opposed to Mehta?
Gujarat officials said the curative petition was filed because the apex court, while dealing with a similar situation relating to the post under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, had held in January this year that "in the matter of appointment of lokayukta, the views of the chief minister have primacy.”
But, in the Gujarat case, its views were different. Hence, it sought a clear direction from the apex court.
"The fact of the matter remains that the government of Gujarat was against the unconstitutional process of his appointment, which targeted the democratic federal structure... It's only when all the decks go cleared for taking over the charge, Mehta refused to take up his job," said an official.