The post of Up-Lokayukt (Deputy Lokayukta) in Madhya Pradesh’s anti-corruption watchdog was created and subsequently filled a day ahead of the announcement of assembly polls by the Election Commission, documents obtained under RTI Act show.
Within three days, the whole process of appointment — from writing a letter to Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court, seeking nomination of the suitable candidate, to finally approving the appointment — was completed, the documents received in response to an RTI query filed by transparency activist Ajay Dubey reveal.
After the documents were made public, transparency activists have raised their voice at the “lightning speed” with which the appointment was processed.
“The appointment of Up-Lokayukta was made within three days. It was done a day ahead of the announcement of assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh. Why did the government think of filling the post of Up-Lokayukt towards the end of their tenure,” asked Dubey.
According to the documents, former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had written to Madhya Pradesh Chief Justice on October 3, 2018, seeking the name of a suitable candidate for the post of Up-Lokayukta.
On the same day, the high court chief justice replied to the CM’s communique and recommended sitting judge, Justice Sushil Kumar Palo, who was due to retire on November 1, for the post, the documents show.
On October 5, the state government wrote to Lokayukta Justice N K Gupta, seeking his nod, a statutory requirement, for the appointment, which was received on the same day.
Following which, Palo’s appointment was approved by the government.
An order, mentioning the government’s approval for creation of the post of Up-Lokayukta and support staff, was sent to the Lokayukta’s office on the same day, as per the documents.
The file was later sent to Madhya Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel for her approval, as per the statutory requirement.
Incidentally, the secretary to the governor approved the proposal, on the direction of the governor, on October 10, according to an order that said it was done after obtaining a ‘no-objection certificate’ from the Election Commission (as the elections were already announced by the poll body on October 6 and model code of conduct had come into force).
The cabinet gave its post-facto approval to the government on December 5, days ahead of the counting of votes on December 11.
The Kamal Nath-led Congress government took over the reins of the state on December 17.
Meanwhile, Justice Palo took over as the second Lokayukta on November 3.
Activist Dubey said he would challenge the appointment of Up-Lokayukta in the Supreme Court.
He said the central government is yet to set up Lokpal, nearly five years after the Act on the anti-corruption ombudsman was passed.
“But here in Madhya Pradesh, the government acted with lightening speed to ensure appointment of second Up-Lokayukt ahead of the state elections,” Dubey claimed.
The tenure of Lokayukta or Up-Lokayukta is of six years.
The Lokayukta organisation is mandated to act against acts of corruption by state government employees.
There can be one post of Lokayukta and one or more Up-Lokayukts in the Lokayukta organisation.
Justice N K Gupta had been working as the Lokayukta and Justice Umesh Chandra Maheshwari as the other Up-Lokayukt.
As per rules, Up-Lokayukta shall be appointed after consultation with Lokayukta, or where a sitting judge of a high court is to be appointed, the chief justice of that high court in which he is working, shall be consulted.