The appointment of retired Allahabad high court judge Justice Virendra Singh as the Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta was deferred on Saturday, after a petition questioning his selection was filed in the Supreme Court.
Justice Singh’s oath-taking ceremony was scheduled for Sunday. However, the Akhilesh Yadav government was forced to postpone the appointment after an apex court bench comprising Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit – after learning that the high court chief justice had objected to the choice – indicated that they may stay it.
State additional advocate general Gaurav Bhatia stated that the state shall not proceed with the appointment until January 4, and would instead wait for the hearing on the petition by a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi. On December 16, the bench had invoked its extra-ordinary power to appoint Justice Singh.
Justices Goel and Lalit remained in the Supreme Court despite its closure for the winter vacations after petitioner Sachidanand Gupta moved the petition seeking an urgent hearing. It was on his contempt plea that the December 16 order was passed.
Gupta’s advocate, Kamini Jaiswal, cited media reports claiming that the UP government had included Justice Singh’s name despite assuring Chief Justice DY Chandrachud that it would not figure in the panel.
On the same day of the apex court order, Justice Chandrachud expressed his displeasure to UP governor Ram Naik in a letter.
Demanding that the appointment should be stayed in view of the misrepresented facts, Jaiswal said, “This order was obtained fraudulently.”
As the two judges were not a part of the bench that ordered Justice Singh’s appointment, they told Bhatia to defer the oath ceremony. When Bhatia contested the claims made by the media, the bench asked: “Why didn’t the government react to reports to clarify that the statement attributed to the chief justice was wrong?”
He then sought time to consult the chief minister’s office. After a 15-minute break, Bhatia informed the bench that the government had decided to refrain from going ahead with the appointment process. Interestingly, the governor’s representative in the court confirmed that he had received Justice Chandrachud’s letter.
Governor Naik had forwarded the letter to the chief minister as well as opposition leader Swami Prasad Maurya.
A committee comprising the high court chief justice, chief minister and leader of the opposition had decided on the Lokayukta. It is believed that the three sat for five hours a day before the Supreme Court hearing, and for two hours on December 16 to discuss the names.
Justice Chandrachud’s letter provided details of the selection procedure adopted as well as the discussions that took place. The second round of discussion, as per the letter, ended on the note that Justice Singh’s name would not be considered any further. Though serving judge Justice AN Mittal’s name was to be considered at the next sitting on the evening of the court hearing, the state government failed to apprise the top court of these developments.
A report by HT Lucknow was quoted in the petition to the Supreme Court. It read: In support of the submissions above, for the time being, the petitioner relies on the news article titled “CJ ‘upset’, writes to governor; CM meets him to clarify govt’s point”, published in Hindustan Times, Lucknow edition, on 17.12.2015 authored by journalist Umesh Raghuvanshi, and the content whereof the petitioner believes is true. As and when the petitioner receives any better source, the petitioner would bring the same on record.