The strict direction of the Supreme Court to the Uttar Pradesh government directing it to appoint a new Lokayukta in the next two days has not come as surprise to many in the state. In the past few months the UP government had complicated the simple process of selecting a Lokayukta simply to ensure that the person recommended by it was appointed to the post despite objections by the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court and the UP Governor.
To get its way, the government tried everything. It even sent the same name to the Governor four times despite being asked again and again to first follow the procedures: call a selection committee meeting, propose an amendment bill for the state assembly to remove the Chief Justice of Allahabad High court as a member of the selection committee.
Now after the Supreme Court direction, CM Akhilesh Yadav has called a selection committee meeting at his residence on Tuesday evening. This committee comprises the leader of opposition and senior BSP leader Swami Prasad Maurya and the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court DY Chandrachud but the government is not confident that it would be able to convince the governor and the chief justice to select a name from among a list of about 50 retired judges in such a short time.
For reasons best known to the government, it has been extra sensitive towards the appointment of Lokayukta since the beginning of its tenure. In 2012, soon after the formation of the SP government, the government controversially recommended an extension to the sitting Lokayukta,- from six years to eight years, through an ordinance sent to the Governor after office hours. Since the term of the sitting Lokayukta had already ended by that time, then Governor BL Joshi refused to clear the ordinance. The government then introduced another ordinance seeking an extension with retrospective effect.This extended the term of the sitting Lokayukta NK Mehrotra which ended in March 2014. While the Supreme Court in April 2014 upheld the amendment, at the same time it asked the state Government to look for a replacement. The state government was given six months but it did little and kept seeking more time.
In July this year, the Supreme Court gave the UP government four weeks to appoint a new Lokayukta. Following this, on August 5, 2015, the name of Justice (retired) Ravindra Singh was sent to Governor Ram Naik for his assent. However, before clearing the name, Naik sought details of all the communication between Akhilesh Maurya and Justice Chandrachud. This is when the governor learnt that the Chief Justice had raised strong objections to Ravindra Singh citing his “political affiliations” with the ruling Samajwadi party.
Despite repeated reminders from the Governor, the government neither proposed a fresh name nor did it call a meeting of the selection committee. As a result, on August 25, 2015, Naik outright rejected name of Ravindra Singh and asked the government to suggest a fresh name. However, instead of starting a fresh process, the government introduced an amendment in the UP
state assembly on August 28 removing the clause that required the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court to be a a part of the selection committee.That bill is pending with the Governor.
In the meantime, the government suddenly called a selection meeting in September including the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court and placed a list of 50 retired judges before them. The Chief Justice asked the CM to first ensure the validity of the process since amendment Bill was pending with the governor.
Having already dragged the issue for so long, the UP government is now unclear about how to resolve it in just a day’s time now.