The Supreme Court on Thursday recalled its December 2015 verdict appointing retired Allahabad high court judge justice Virendra Singh as the Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh and appointed former HC judge Sanjay Misra as the new ombudsman.
A bench headed by justice Ranjan Gogoi regretted that the constitutional authorities in the state - the chief minister and high court chief justice - were unable to arrive at a consensus.
The order came on a petition asking it to recall its December 16, 2015, order on the ground the state government had failed to apprise the bench about the CJ’s objection to justice Singh’s name. The apex court agreed with the petitioner’s contention but expressed disappointment that the reservations were not placed before it prior to the bench appointing justice Singh.
“It’s unfortunate that functionaries like the CM and chief justice of the HC were unable to arrive at a name for the post of Lokayukta,” the bench said.
Law prescribes that a collegium, comprising the chief minister, the state high court chief justice and the Leader of Opposition, has to take a unanimous decision to appoint a Lokayukta. But the three failed to arrive at a consensus for 20 months prompting the SC to invoke its special powers to appoint Justice Singh.
On January 20, when the SC reserved its verdict on the plea to remove justice Singh, the bench had categorically said it would not let the collegium select a new Lokayukta in case it decided to recall its order.
“For 20 months you failed to arrive at a consensus over a name for the post. The order (of December 16, 2015, appointing Justice Singh) was delivered under very painful and distressing circumstances. We are not sending it back (to the constitutional authorities) even if we recall our order. We shall do whatever is appropriate and appoint someone,” it had told the counsel representing various parties including the CJ.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and chief justice DY Chandrachud were not on the same page regarding the new Lokayukta. The delay in finalising a name prompted the top court to pass an order.
Later, allegations surfaced that the state government had not informed the apex court that the chief justice had not approved Justice Singh’s appointment, citing lack of integrity. The SC had in its last hearing agreed with the contention of justice Chandrachud that it was misled by the state government.
But the state government contested justice Chandrachud’s opinion before the apex court, saying the name was not withdrawn at all. It accused the chief justice and the state governor of unnecessarily trying to block the appointment.