Just over a month after it appointed former Allahabad High Court Judge Virendra Singh as the Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta, the Supreme Court Thursday recalled its order, citing “serious doubt” over “unclear” facts. A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and P C Pant selected retired Allahabad High Court Judge Sanjay Misra as the new Lokayukta and directed the authorities to notify his appointment within a week.
Referring to the objections raised by Allahabad High Court Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Leader of Opposition Swami Prasad Maurya, the bench said: “The picture that emanates from the above narration of facts is hazy, unclear and uncertain and we are left in serious doubt as to whether the constitutional/ statutory functionaries or at least two of them had, at all, agreed on any name or names. It is unfortunate that constitutional/ statutory functionaries, in spite of prolonged and extended meetings, continued to have serious differences on a relatively simple issue i.e. appointment of the Lokayukta.”
On December 16, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the state government, had submitted a list of five names and told the bench that the Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition had reached a consensus on three of the names. “However, the Chief Justice has not agreed on any name, nor has he sent any name for consideration,” Sibal had said.
The court then invoked its constitutional powers to appoint Singh, one of the names in the list. However, within hours of this order, Allahabad High Court Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud wrote to the Governor, underlining his objections to Singh’s appointment. He said Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had agreed with him that Singh’s name will not be proposed, but the state government had included his name in the list.
A few days later, Maurya — the third member of the selection committee — also wrote to the Governor, backing the Chief Justice. In the wake of these developments and a fresh plea in the court, Singh’s swearing-in was put on hold.
Taking cognisance of these communications, the bench held that these letters “clearly belie” the claim that agreement was reached on any name, even between the Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition. It noted that Singh was selected on the basis of a statement by the state government, “which now appears to be somewhat inaccurate”.
Acknowledging Justice Chandrachud’s adverse views, the bench said: “In view of the above reservations and having regard to the fact that this court, in Justice K P Mohapatra Vs Sri Ram Chandra Nayak and others, accorded primacy to the opinion of the Hon’ble Chief Justice in the consultative process for appointment of Lokayukta, we are inclined to recall our order dated December 16, 2015 and instead appoint Shri Justice Sanjay Misra as the Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh.”
The bench recorded that Misra’s name appeared in the common list of names that was discussed, as mentioned in the letters of the Chief Justice and the Chief Minister.
Earlier, Singh was appointed as Lokayukta by the bench due to the repeated failure of the state government to comply with the court’s directives — the state government breached at least three deadlines in the last one year.