The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the failure of constitutional authorities in Uttar Pradesh and reserved its order on a petition seeking recall of its decision to appoint retired high court judge Justice Virendra Singh as the state’s Lokayukta.
The top court said it will not let the UP chief minister, the Allahabad high court chief justice and the leader of opposition (LoP) in the state assembly select a new Lokayukta in case it decided to recall its order appointing Justice Singh to the post.
“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,” a bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and PC Pant said.
The court said it cannot recall the previous order until there are compelling reasons.
“The Chief Justice (of Allahabad high court) has expressed his reservation with regard to the person subsequently appointed by us. We would not sit in appeal on his satisfaction but can you give us the material that led him to believe his (Justice Singh) integrity,” the bench asked senior counsel TR Ahdiyarujina, representing the chief justice, when he insisted the retired judge was of doubtful integrity.
It even commented on the alleged flip-flop by the LoP, who later retracted his support for the former judge. The court said: “We do not want to go by the LoP. He is also shifting his stand.”
The law prescribes that a collegium, comprising the chief minister, the state high court chief justice and the LoP has to take a unanimous decision to appoint a Lokayukta.
But chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and chief justice DY Chandrachud were not on the same page regarding the new Lokayukta. The chief minister objected to the names proposed by the chief justice while Justice Chandrachud expressed reservations over those forwarded by Yadav.
The delay in finalising a name prompted the top court to invoke its constitutional powers to appoint Justice Singh, whose name figured on top of the list the state had submitted when the order was issued.
Later, allegations surfaced that the state government had not informed the court that the chief justice had not approved Justice Singh’s appointment, citing lack of integrity.
The bench agreed with the contention of Justice Chandrachud that it was misled by the state government.
“Yes, we have been misled. But then, our orders were delivered under the constitutional powers and not on the basis of an individual’s satisfaction,” the bench told senior advocate Andhiyarujina, who repeatedly argued that chief minister Yadav had assured he would not recommend Justice Singh in future after the chief justice “vehemently” opposed it.
He stated that the LoP, in his letter to the governor, supported Justice Chandrachud’s views.
But the state government contested Justice Chandrachud’s opinion before the apex court, saying the name wasn’t withdrawn at all. It accused the chief justice and the state governor of unnecessarily trying to block the appointment.
The state’s advocate general said the order should not be recalled as the former judge was also nominated as the head of the state consumer commission.