SC appoints Virendra Singh as UP Lokayukta

In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court today exercised its extraordinary powers and appointed Virendra Singh, a former judge of the Allahabad High Court, as the next Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh. A division bench, comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and NV Ramana, said that it was "unimpressed" by the explanation given by senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government that serious efforts were made by the collegium consisting of Chief Minister, leader of opposition and the Chief Justice of the HC to name a Lokayukta. The apex court, while exercising its extraordinary powers under article 142, appointed Justice (retd) Virendra Singh, who is at present head of the state consumer commission, as the state's next Lokayukta. Mr Sibal earlier had told the Supreme Court that the three-member collegium panel to appoint the Lokayukta in the Uttar Pradesh met for five hours on Tuesday and two hours this morning. In this regard, Mr Sibal submitted five names to the Supreme Court to decide the appointment of Lokayukta. "There was a consensus between the chief minister and leader of opposition on three names while the chief justice of the Allahabad High Court expressed no opinion," Mr Sibal told the apex court.

Slamming the Uttar Pradesh government time and again for not appointing Lokayukta in the state despite its earlier directions, the Supreme Court said the order should complied with by 16th December. In the last hearing, the apex court had strongly observed, “Why do you (UP) not appoint the Lokayukta? Why has our order not been complied with? Why can’t the Chief Minister, the Governor and the Chief Justice (of the High Court) sort this out? “We don’t mince words. It seems, each one of you have your own agenda... you make the appointment by Wednesday.” the Supreme Court had said. The bench passed the order after hearing pleas filed by Mahendra Kumar Jain and lawyer Radhakant Tripathi seeking a direction to the state government to appoint the Lokayukta at the earliest time while complying with earlier Supreme Court orders. The apex court had on December 4, issued notice to the state government and sought a detailed reply from it on a fresh contempt petition filed by one Sachidanand Gupta. Gupta questioned why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against it for non-compliance of its order to appoint a new Lokayukta in the state.

While upholding the constitutional validity of the amendment in the UP Lokayukta Act, the Supreme Court had on April 24 directed the state government to take steps to select a new ombudsman within six months. The court had, in its order, said that the ombudsman's tenure should be fixed for a period of eight years. In its earlier order, the apex court had directed the UP government to take appropriate measures and steps for selecting new successor of Lokayukta Justice (Retd) N.K. Mehrotra within six months. Justice Mehrotra was appointed as the state Lokayukta in 2006 for a period of six years and later, the state government extended his service for another two years by amending the Act.

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