The Uttar Pradesh government on Saturday opted to defer the appointment of former High Court judge Virendra Singh as the new Lokayukta after the Supreme Court questioned the state government over objections raised by the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court on Singh’s selection.
“Since it has been stated by the learned Additional Advocate General for the State of UP that the oath has now been deferred to await further proceedings in this matter, let the matter be listed before the appropriate Bench on 4th January, 2016,” said a bench led by Justice A K Goel.
Singh was supposed to take oath as Lokayukta on Sunday, pursuant to an extraordinary judicial order on December 16 when the apex court invoked its constitutional power to appoint the new Lokayukta of UP following repeated failure of the state government to do so. The court, from a list of five names submitted by the state government, had chosen Justice Virendra Singh.
However, a day later, on Thursday, High Court Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud wrote a letter to Governor Ram Naik, expressing displeasure that despite his strong objection, Singh had been included in the panel of names sent to the top court. Justice Chandrachud also pointed out that the name was included though Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had assured it would not be done.
On an urgent plea moved against the proposed swearing-in of Singh, the bench assembled on a holiday. It asked counsel for the state Gaurav Bhatia whether media reports about the High Court Chief Justice’s objections were true. It pointed out there had been no response by the state government to these reports, and to the letter written by the Allahabad High Court Chief Justice.
Bhatia sought time to get instructions from the competent authority on this. However, as the bench was informed that the swearing-in was scheduled for Sunday, it asked Bhatia whether the state government was willing to defer it. The bench also observed that any further order in this case should be issued by the same bench that had made the order of appointment.
Bhatia, after getting instructions, submitted that the oath-taking would be deferred until the matter is heard by the appropriate bench. The bench recorded his statement and fixed the case for January 4, when the court reopens after the winter break.
On December 16, a bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, citing the “inability of the constitutional authorities”, invoked its constitutional powers to appoint Singh, a former Allahabad High Court judge, as the new Lokayukta.
The bench noted that despite its various orders since April 2014, the UP government had failed to appoint the new Lokayukta. It said this indicated “the inability of the constitutional authorities” and reflected “a failure, if not recusal, to comply with the orders of the highest court of the land.”
Confirming that the Chief Justice had objected to Justice Virendra Singh for the post of Lokayukta, Leader of Opposition and BSP leader Swami Prasad Maurya had two days ago told The Indian Express: “Chief Justice had objected to Virendra Singh’s name but Supreme Court had asked for names that were being discussed and this name was also being discussed, so it was sent. As far as the letter is concerned, I am not in Lucknow and have not received it so far from Governor House.”