The apex court on Monday rapped the UP government for not appointing Lokayukta despite its directions and ordered compliance by December 16, saying it seemed that appointing authorities have their “own agenda”.
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The Uttar Pradesh government on Monday said it was doing “its best” to appoint a new Lokayukta as soon as possible, hours after Supreme Court cracked the whip on the state government for not appointing the anti-corruption ombudsman even after its earlier directions. Senior government officials on Monday went into a huddle in Lucknow after the apex court’s direction to the UP government to appoint a new Lokayukta within two days.”The state government is doing all its best to appoint a new Lokayukta as early as possible,” an official spokesman told PTI. They also said that senior officials were going through today’s order.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The apex court on Monday rapped the UP government for not appointing Lokayukta despite its directions and ordered compliance by December 16, saying it seemed that appointing authorities have their “own agenda”.”Why do you 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?,” the bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana said.”We don’t mince words. It seems, each one of you have your own agenda… you make the appointment by Wednesday,” it said while fixing the petitions on the issue for hearing on December 16.A tug of war is being witnessed between the state government and Governor Ram Naik for the last several months over the appointment of a new anti-corruption ombudsman after justice (retd) N K Mehrotra.In August this year, the Governor had returned a file recommending Justice (retd) Raveendra Singh’s name to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for the third time.A Raj Bhawan communique had said the Governor returned the file asking the state government to follow proper procedure for the appointment. It had said that Leader of the Opposition Swami Parsad Maurya wrote to the Governor informing him that the three members of the selection committee — the Chief Minister, Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court and Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly — never met to decide the name of the Lokayukta.The state government officially recommended Singh’s name on August 5. The file has since gone back and forth thrice. Naik has made it clear he will not give his assent until the name is cleared in a meeting of the selection committee. He has also recommended that the selection committee first consider a panel of names rather than directly take an opinion on just one name.The Supreme Court had issued notice to the state government on December 4, asking why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against it for non-compliance of its order to appoint a new Lokayukta in the state. A bench comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and NV Ramana had sought response from the state on a fresh contempt petition alleging that despite apex court’s orders to find a suitable replacement of current Lukayukta, no appointment has been made so far.Amid the tug-of-war between UP Rajbhawan and the state government, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had met Governor Ram Naik on December 9. The Governor is believed to have told the chief minister to find out a way with regard to appointment of Lokayukta after discussing the issue with Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court DY Chandrachud. The Governor does not appear to be in favour of referring the Lokayukta issue for presidential consideration as it will only prolong the matter.Naik has returned the file concerning the appointment of a new Lokayukta to the state government a number of times, each time asking the chief minister to follow the proper procedure for selecting the ombudsman. The process to select the new Lokayukta ran into rough weather after the Chief Justice had expressed his reservations against the government’s nominee Justice (retd) Ravindra Singh Yadav.The state government and the Governor are also not on the same page on Yadav’s nomination and the file recommending his name has moved back and forth between Rajbhawan and the state government. The UP Assembly has passed the Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2015, to amend Lokayukta Act dropping Allahabad High Court Chief Justice from the selection committee.The bill proposed that the committee be made a four-member body comprising the CM, Leader of the Opposition, Speaker and a retired judge who would be selected in consultation with the CM and Speaker. The amendment was passed after the Governor refused to accept the appointment on the grounds that a proper meeting of the selection committee was not held and also the Allahabad HC Chief Justice had expressed reservations in view of Singh’s proximity to the ruling Samajwadi Party. The bill is still awaiting the Governor’s nod.On April 24, last year, the court had upheld the constitutional validity of amendment in UP Lokayukta Act for fixing eight-year tenure for the anti-corruption ombudsman. It had also directed the state government to take steps for selecting new incumbent within six months. The apex court, in July this year, had taken note of a contempt petition alleging non-compliance of its on April 24, 2014 order and directed the state to do the needful within 30 days.Justice Mehrotra was appointed as Lokayukta on March 16, 2006 for six years. Later, the government granted him a two-year extension by amending the Act under which the tenure was extended to eight years or till a successor took over. While upholding the constitutional validity of the amendment to the UP Lokayukta Act, the court had directed the state government to take steps to select a new ombudsman within six months.