The contentious issue of naming a new Lokayukta for Uttar Pradesh saw a new twist Sunday with the Allahabad High Court Chief Justice questioning the “validity” of the selection process under the existing Act for which a meeting was called at Chief Minister Akhlesh’s Yadav’s official residence here.
Under the existing law a three-member panel comprising Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, CM and Leader of Opposition decides the name of the Lokayukta.
Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, however, questioned the validity of the process in light of the Lokayukta amendment Bill passed recently by the Assembly. The Bill is pending approval by Governor Ram Naik.
“The Chief Justice was of the view that a Bill has been passed in the Assembly and is pending with the Governor, so deciding on the name of the Lokayukta might be a breach of privilege of the House or might create some constitutional problem,” Leader of Opposition, Swami Prasad Maurya told The Indian Express.
“We (Maurya and CM) tried to convince him (Chief Justice) that a Bill does not into force until it is cleared by the Governor and is turned into an act. We also tried to explain that till the time the new Act comes into force, the earlier one is applicable. But, he (Chief Justice) was adamant that we take legal opinion on the issue, so we agreed on it,” Maurya said adding another meeting will be held soon.
Ii was for the first time that the Chief Justice was a part of the meeting to name the new Lokayukta after the entire controversy over the selection began few months ago.
“It would take some more time to find a way out,” Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said, adding that constitution would be followed.
The state Assembly had last month passed the Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2015, to amend the Lokayukta Act, dropping the Chief Justice’s name from the selection panel. The bill proposed a four-member selection committee comprising the CM, Leader of Opposition, Speaker and a retired judge to be selected in consultation by the CM and the Speaker.
The government brought in the amendment after the Governor rejected the name of Justice (retd) Ravindra Singh as the new Lokayukta, as proposed by the CM in the first week of August. Naik cited that a proper meeting of the selection committee had not been held before finalising the name. He had also pointed out that the Chief Justice had expressed reservation in view of Singh’s apparent proximity to the ruling Samajwadi Party. The Bill is still awaiting the Governor’s assent.
With no consensus over his name, Singh had opted out of the race for the key post by sending a letter to the chief minister.
With the Supreme Court deadline to appoint a new Lokayukta already over, the state government last week suddenly decided to start the fresh selection process under the existing Act. A meeting, which took place last week, remained inconclusive as Chief Justice could not attend it due to it being a “Court Day” in Allahabad.
The present ombudsman, Justice NK Mehrotra, has already spent nine years in office.