New Delhi: Supreme Court on Thursday recalled its December 16 order appointing controversial Justice Virendra Singh, a former judge of Allahabad High Court, as Lokayukta and named another retired judge as new ombudsman of Uttar Pradesh, terming the state government's statement on the issue as "somewhat inaccurate".
Appointing Justice Sanjay Misra as new Lokayukta, the apex court bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi termed as "unfortunate" the inability of constitutional functionaries like the Chief Minister and the Chief Justice of the High Court to arrive at a consensual name as head of ombudsman.
"We are persuaded to hold that our order appointing Justice Virendra Singh (Retd) as Lokayukta was on the basis of the statement made on behalf of the state of Uttar Pradesh which now appears to be somewhat inaccurate.
"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," the bench, also comprising Justice P C Panta, said.
The bench picked out Justice Misra for the post as his name figured in the list of probables prepared by the Chief Minister and the Chief Justice of the High Court. While recalling its order appointing Justice Singh as Lokayukta, the court considered its 2002 judgement that had accorded "primacy to the opinion of the Chief Justice in the consultative process for appointment of Lokayukta". "...we are inclined to recall our order dated December 16, 2015 and instead appoint Justice Sanjay Misra (Retired Judge of Allahabad High Court) as the Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh.
In making the aforesaid appointment, we have taken note of the fact that the name of Justice Sanjay Misra appears in the common list of names that were discussed as mentioned in the letters of the Chief Justice of the High Court and the Chief Minister referred to above," it said.
The court, in its order, also observed that the reservation of the High Court Chief Justice on the name of Justice Singh with regard to his suitability for the post of Lokayukta was not brought before it when the last order was passed.
"However, we now have on record the subsequent reservation of the Chief Justice of the High Court with regard to the suitability of Justice Virendra Singh (Retd) as Lokayukta as expressed in the Chief Justice's letter dated 16th December, 2015 to His Excellency the Governor of Uttar Pradesh. "We can only wish that the above reservation of the Hon'ble Chief Justice had been placed before us before we had passed our earlier order dated December 16, 2015 in Writ Petition... particularly when the High Court was represented before us on the said date," it said.
Disposing of various pleas on the issue, it asked the authorities to pass within a week the "consequential orders" in terms of its direction appointing Justice Misra as new Lokayukta. It also asked the state to file "compliance report".
The order came on pleas seeking quashing of Governor's notification, passed in pursuance of the verdict the apex court, to appoint Justice Singh as the new Lokayukta. Earlier on December 16 last year, in an unusual order, the apex court had exercised its constitutional authority and appointed Justice Singh as Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta, while expressing dismay that its several orders directing that the appointment to the post be made had not been "heeded" by the constitutional functionaries -- the Chief Minister, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court.
However, the appointment was later stayed by the apex court itself after it was told by a UP resident Sachidanad Gupta that the state government has played a "fraud upon the apex court" by hiding the fact that the Chief Justice had expressed his reservations to the name of Justice Singh.