December,14,2015: Citing the “inability of the constitutional authorities”, the Supreme Court, in an unprecedented move Wednesday, invoked its constitutional powers to appoint the new Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh.
A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana appointed former Allahabad High Court judge Virendra Singh as the new UP Lokayukta, after recording the repeated failure of the state government to comply with the court’s directives — the state government has breached at least three deadlines in the last one year.
Snubbing the Akhilesh Yadav government, the court refused to wait any further to enable the three functionaries — the Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition and High Court Chief Justice — to reach an agreement on the new incumbent, and made the appointment straightaway by exercising its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.
The bench noted that despite its various orders since April 2014, the UP government had failed to appoint the new Lokayukta. It said this indicated “the inability of the constitutional authorities” and reflected “a failure, if not recusal, to comply with the orders of the highest court of the land.”
The court said it was compelled to invoke its powers under Article 142 owing to the circumstances that are “deeply regretted” and “astonishing” because all the “hopes and expectations of this court have gone in vain and remained unheeded.”
With no consensus emerging as the two-day deadline given by the court expired on Wednesday, the state government roped in senior advocate Kapil Sibal to defend its steps but the bench remained “unimpressed”. It turned down Sibal’s request not to record strictures against the state authorities in its order, even as the lawyer offered apology for the impasse.
“If there is a failure by the constitutional authorities, we will have to mention it. We are exercising our powers under Article 142 and we don’t do it very often,” said the court.
Sibal was earlier asked to hand over a list of names shortlisted by the state government to replace Justice (retd) N K Mehrotra, who completed his eight-year-long stint as the Lokayukta last year. He gave a list of five names and told the bench that the Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition had reached a consensus on three names. “However, the Chief Justice has not agreed on any name, nor has he sent any name for consideration,” said Sibal.
The bench then ordered appointment of Justice (retd) Virendra Singh — one of the names on the list — as the new Lokayukta. It ordered the state government to issue an order of his appointment and file an affidavit of compliance in the court by December 24.
Uttar Pradesh has seen a stalemate over appointment of the Lokayukta with Governor Ram Naik repeatedly returning the recommendations to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. Naik objected to the recommendation being made by the CM’s office, without mentioning whether it had the approval of the Chief Justice of the High Court. The Governor made it clear that he would not give his assent until the name was cleared by a meeting of the selection committee.
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