The Supreme Court Wednesday said it had been “misled” into appointing Justice (retd) Virendra Singh as the new Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh and that it will recall the order passed more than a month ago if the appointment is held to be “very inappropriate”.
“We accept that we have been misled… we have been misled since it now transpires that the Chief Justice (of the Allahabad High Court) had objected to this name and according to the Chief Justice, the Chief Minister had agreed not to propose this name. We agree that there had been misrepresentation that the Chief Justice had not expressed any view on this name,” observed a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice P C Pant.
“If Virendra Singh’s name is very inappropriate, we will recall our order and appoint someone else… leave it to us how to do it and who should be appointed,” the bench added.
On the state government’s attempt to “mislead” the court, the bench said, “They have misled us… alright… we will deal with that.”
It reserved its order on a plea to withdraw its December 16 order, appointing Singh as the new Lokayukta after his name figured in a list of five names handed to the bench by the Uttar Pradesh government.
It was owing to a delay of 20 months and several missed deadlines by the state government that the bench decided to exercise its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution and directly appoint the Lokayukta.
A list containing five names was handed over to the court by senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, who represented the UP government, and the court was informed that High Court Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud has neither agreed on any name nor has he recommended any name himself.
What the bench was not told on December 16 was that Justice Chandrachud had expressed strong objections to Singh’s name over issues of “integrity” when it was proposed by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and that it was agreed upon between them that this name would not be proposed or considered any further.
But Singh’s name topped the list the state government handed to the apex court on December 16. Hours after the bench appointed Singh, Justice Chandrachud wrote to the UP Governor pointing out these facts. A plea was later moved in court, alleging that the state government has played a fraud upon the highest court of the land by concealing the Chief Justice’s objections.
During the hearing on Wednesday, the bench underlined that it was compelled to appoint the Lokayukta because the collegium, comprising the Chief Minister, leader of opposition and the Chief Justice, could not agree on any name in 20 months and various deadlines had been missed.
It sought to know from senior advocate T R Andhyarujina, who appeared for the Allahabad High Court, Justice Chandrachud’s objections to Singh’s name and the basis of his doubts over his integrity.
Andhyarujina asked the bench: “Had your lordship been apprised of the objections, would you have made this appointment?”
“Certainly not,” replied the bench, adding that since it has now passed an order, there has to be “some compelling reasons shocking the conscience of the court” to justify recalling it.
Andhyrujina also clarified that Singh was not appointed as chairman of the consumer commission during Justice Chandrachud’s tenure because UP’s Advocate General Vijay Bahadur Singh had questioned why his name was cleared for the post if there were doubts over his integrity.