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Supreme Court defers swearing-in of UP Lokayukta; takes up plea against appointment

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In an extraordinary hearing on a holiday, a bench comprising justices A K Goel and U U Lalit raised some pointed question as to how the name of Justice Virendra Singh was placed before its bench when the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court had specifically made some objections.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
The swearing-in of former high court judge Virendra Singh as Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta was deferred on Saturday after his controversial appointment was challenged in Supreme Court before which the state government gave an undertaking to keep it in abeyance till the matter is decided.In an extraordinary hearing on a holiday, a bench comprising justices A K Goel and U U Lalit raised some pointed question as to how the name of Justice Virendra Singh was placed before its bench when the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court had specifically made some objections.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>When the bench said that there has been no statement by the government denying the stated position of the chief justice who had written a letter to the Governor and reported in the media, UP’s additional advocate general Gaurav Bhatia gave an undertaking on behalf of the government that there will be no oath taking ceremony on Sunday.The court was hearing a petition filed by UP resident Sachidanad Gupta alleging that the state government has played a “fraud upon the apex court” by hiding the fact that the Allahabad High Court Chief Justice had expressed his reservations to the name of Justice Virendra Singh.

UP government misled Supreme Court: High Court CJ

On Wednesday, the apex court had taken the unprecedented decision of unilaterally finalizing the name of Justice Yadav for the post after several of its severe nudges to the Akhilesh Yadav government to make the appointment failed.

The Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court Justice DY Chandrachud has put the proverbial spanner in the works in the appointment of Justice (retd.) Virendra Singh Yadav as the new UP Lokayukta.On Wednesday, the apex court had taken the unprecedented decision of unilaterally finalizing the name of Justice Yadav for the post after several of its severe nudges to the Akhilesh Yadav government to make the appointment failed.On Thursday, the High Court CJ shot off a letter to UP Governor Ram Naik and to the Chief Justice of India saying that the Supreme Court had been misled about the names being considered for this post. The CJ is part of the three-member selection panel for the Lokayukta’s appointment, besides leader of the Opposition and the UP CM.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The allegation puts the state government’s counsel Kapil Sibal in the dock as he was the one who after consulting the state government gave the five names to the bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi. The bench named retired judge Virendra Singh as the new Lokayukta.Though a copy of the letter was not available, Governor House sources said Justice Yadav’s name had already been struck off the list of probables on Tuesday evening when a five-hour marathon meeting of the three-member selection committee failed to name a unanimous choice.The panel had met again on Wednesday morning, an hour before the apex court was to hear the related case. The Supreme Court had fixed Wednesday as the deadline for the UP government to name the new Lokayukta.Sources said that on Wednesday morning, the selection committee named Justice Mittal, a serving judge of the Allahabad High Court, as the unanimous choice for this post.How and why Justice Virendra Singh Yadav’s name was included in the list of probables at the last moment before the apex court remains a mystery. Sources said that the High Court CJ had vetoed Justice Yadav’s name as he was known to be close to the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) leadership.The CJ’s letter, virtually voicing his opinion against the judge the apex court has named, casts doubts about whether the UP Governor would administer the oath of office to Justice Yadav. Chances of this happening seem rather bleak under the changed circumstances.

Akhilesh Yadav urges Centre to set up AIIMS in Gorakhpur

it would make provision for other infrastructure in its next budget and start construction

He said that the state has assured to provide 2.5 acre land and if the Centre provides fund,

A day after the Supreme Court slammed the Uttar Pradesh government for failing to appoint a Lokayukta, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday said that there was no laxity on his part and he was not at fault. “There was no dilly-dallying on the part of the state government. It is a known fact that who is responsible for the delay in appointment of new Lokayukta in the state,” Akhilesh said without taking any name. He said that the state government was not at fault from any point. “We honour the apex court’s order,” he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The apex court had yesterday directly appointed retired Justice Virendra Singh as the new Lokayukta of UP after the state government failed to meet the deadline fixed by it. Akhilesh was speaking after launching 148 projects worth Rs 585 crore. In a veiled attack on the BJP led NDA government, he said, “Those who used to call our laptop distribution scheme a ‘jhunjhuna’ (plaything), are now themselves talking about digital India.” He said that it was known that those who were talking about Swacch Bharat, have gone with the broom. Stating that there were number of challenges before the country and the state, Akhilesh said debate should be held on development, but some people were raising other issues to distract attention.Referring to the issue of Japanese Encephalitis in east UP, he said he has requested the Centre to set up an AIIMS in Gorakhpur. He said that the state has assured to provide 2.5 acre land and if the Centre provides fund, it would make provision for other infrastructure in its next budget and start construction. Akhilesh said UP has come in the category of a state which decided the new agenda of development and other states were forced to follow it. He said that perception of those who used to call UP, ‘Ulta Pradesh’, has changed after witnessing the development.

Emergency meeting to select a new UP Lokayukta inconclusive

The meeting, which began at 6 PM, continued for almost five hours to meet a Supreme Court deadline.

The Akhilesh Yadav Government was rapped by the Supreme Court on Wednesday for not having elected a Lokayukta.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
The marathon meeting to appoint a new Lokayukta in Uttar Pradesh remained inconclusive on Tuesday as the selection committee failed to reach a consensus.The three-member selection committee comprising Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court DY Chandrachud and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Swami Prasad Maurya could not hammer out a name and will meet on Wednesday again, a senior official said. The meeting, which began at 6 PM, continued for almost five hours to meet a Supreme Court deadline.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The emergency meeting was held a day after the apex court pulled up the state government for not appointing Lokayukta in the state despite its directions and ordered compliance by December 16, saying it seemed that appointing authorities have their “own agenda”.The present ombudsman Justice N K Mehtrotra has already spent nine years in office.Pulling up the state government for not appointing Lokayukta in the state despite its directions, a bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana said, “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?””We don’t mince words. It seems, each one of you have your own agenda… you make the appointment by Wednesday,” it said, fixing the petitions on the issue for hearing on December 16.Earlier in the day, the Governor told reporters that the state will have a new ombudsman tonight as a meeting had been convened this evening to hammer out the issue. The last meeting of the selection committee held on September 27 to appointment new Lokayukta remained inconclusive with High Court Chief Justice questioning the validity of the process after a Bill was passed in the state assembly.HC Chief Justice Chandrachud was of the view that as a Bill was passed in the state assembly, deciding name of Lokayukta could amount to its contempt. He suggested to take a legal opinion for the same. The UP Assembly had 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. Before this, the Supreme Court had on July 23 asked the government to suggest a name for new Lokayukta by August 23 after which the government finalised the name of former justice Raveendra Singh Yadav and sent it to the Raj Bhawan for the first time on August 5.The state government and the Governor have not been on the same page on Yadav’s nomination and the file recommending his name moved back and forth nearly half a dozen times between Raj Bhawan and the state government. 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 assent. With no consensus over his name, Yadav had opted out of the race for the key post by sending a letter to the chief minister.

Doing ‘our best’, will appoint new Lokayukta soon: UP after SC cracks whip on state govt

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”.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
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.

Supreme Court pulls up Uttar Pradesh for not appointing Lokayukta

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Lokayukta to Mehta: What about babus?

ML Tahaliyani and Ajoy Mehta

You acted against the contractors, but what about your own officials? BMC chief Ajoy Mehta could hardly have missed the message when Maharashtra Lokayukta Justice MG Tahaliyani on Tuesday issued a notice to him and launched its own probe into the Rs150 crore ‘desilting scam’. Tahaliyani has sought a report from Mehta seeking details of the action taken against errant civic officials and engineers involved in the scam. A dna report dated September 27, 2015 on the desilting scam is also part of the Lokayukta’s notice. Mehta is expected to reply to the notice issued under section 10 of the Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta Act 1971 on Wednesday.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> “We have issued a notice to the municipal commissioner taking suo moto cognizance of the desilting scam. We have called for a preliminary report from him. Criminal action has been taken against contractors and FIRs have been registered too. However, we want to know what action has been taken against errant officials. If we are not satisfied with the municipal commissioner’s reply, we will launch a thorough investigation,” Tahaliyani told dna. Officials said this was the first such move in recent times where the Lokayukta had launched an inquiry into a major civic issue. After the BMC’s high-level probe into the scam nailed shoddy work by its contractors, the BMC ordered blacklisting of all contractors involved in desilting work. Mehta also asked the BMC to register FIRs against all 24 contractors and start departmental enquiries against errant officials. Following an interim report, Mehta had suspended 14 officials and registered FIRs against three contractors in connection with the scam. While 10 engineers from the Storm Water Drain (SWD) department were suspended, the civic body also suspended Chief Engineer (Vigilance) Uday Murudkar, six sub-engineers, four assistant engineers and three supervisors from the SWD department. However, FIRs were not registered against any officials. “The scam could not have been executed without involvement of civic officials. If needed, we will conduct a probe and recommend action against those found guilty to the municipal commissioner. We are awaiting the BMC chief’s reply to decide on further course of action,” Tahaliyani added. The BMC’s probe report had stated that not only did contractors do sub-standard work, but openly cheated the BMC by inflating desilting claims when in reality, no work had taken place. According to officials, almost all contractors involved in desilting work duped the BMC. The BMC probe panel led by additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh examined records of trips that the contractors’ trucks made from various drains in the city to the designated dumping grounds. The final report, which took over three months to be completed, was submitted to Mehta last week. BMC’s claims of being rain-ready were washed away with a heavy downpour on June 18 and 19. The civic body had reportedly spent Rs150 crore on the preparations, but not just the low-lying areas, several other localities were water-logged. Following the floods, Mehta ordered a probe into the desilting operations. The report claimed that there were irregularities in 65 to 70% of the work. The report also nails 20 civic officials from the SWD and Vigilance department. Mehta could not be reached for comment.

Karnataka Lokayukta resigns over alleged bribery scandal

Rao, who had resisted growing calls for stepping down following the allegation, had tendered his resignation on Monday and it was accepted by Governor Vajubhai R Vala on Tuesday, ending months of uncertainty hanging over the institution.

Karnataka Lokayukta resigns
File Photo

Facing the prospect of his removal, controversial Karnataka Lokayukta Y Bhaskar Rao has resigned over an alleged extortion racket in the anti-graft ombudsman’s office involving his son.Rao, who had resisted growing calls for stepping down following the allegation, had tendered his resignation on Monday and it was accepted by Governor Vajubhai R Vala on Tuesday, ending months of uncertainty hanging over the institution. “Hon’ble Governor of Karnataka is pleased to accept the resignation of Dr. Justice Y. Bhaskar Rao, as Lokayukta of Karnataka State with immediate effect,” a Raj Bhavan communique said on Tuesday.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rao is on a long leave since July last after his son Ashwin Rao was arrested by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in connection with the case. A motion moved by BJP and JDS and also supported by the ruling Congress seeking the removal of Rao is pending before the Karnataka Assembly with the Speaker Kagodu Thimappa considering it before referring the issue to the Karnataka High Court Chief Justice to take the process forward.According to the Lokayukta Act, recently amended to simplify rules for removal of the anti-graft ombudsman, on admission of the motion, the presiding officers shall refer the matter to the High Court Chief Justice for investigation into the grounds over which the removal is sought. If the charges against the Lokayukta are proved by the inquiry, it is then taken up for consideration and adoption of the motion and sent to the Governor for assent.The investigation for proof of misbehaviour or incapacity of Lokayukta has to be done as provided in the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968, by a three-member committee, comprising two judges and a jurist. The scandal surfaced after Lokayukta Superintendent of Police Sonia Narang wrote a letter to the Registrar of Karnataka Lokayukta about the complaint she received from a person who alleged that someone from the Lokayukta office demanded Rs 1 crore in bribe to avoid a raid. The SIT has arrested 11 persons, including Ashwin Rao, and registered five cases in connection with the alleged racket.In another development, a motion seeking removal of Upa Lokayukta Subhash Adi, moved by the Congress but not supported by BJP and JDS, is also before the Assembly. In their petition against Adi, the ruling party members have accused him of “misuse of office, misconduct and inefficiency”. The Opposition maintains there are no specific charges against Adi and the move against him is an attempt to shut down the Lokayukta institution itself.Former Upa Lokayukta SB Majage had earlier alleged that Adi had closed a case of misconduct against a medical officer from Hubballi, which was a being handled by him. Following that, some Congress leaders had demanded Adi’s resignation. The Congress leaders had also alleged that the medical officer was a relative of Opposition BJP leader in the Assembly Jagadish Shettar, during whose Chief Ministership Adi was appointed as the Upa Lokayukta. Procedure for removal of the Upa Lokayukta is similar to that for a Lokayukta.The Assembly Speaker has, however, said that he is not convinced with the evidence produced that alleged Adi had shown favouritism and exceeded his jurisdiction.

Karnataka: Process for removal of Lokayukta started

A petition seeking removal of Rao as Lokayukta with 46 members of BJP and 37 of JD(S) signing it was separately submitted to Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa, as the winter session of the state legislature is underway.

Setting the ball rolling for removal of controversial Karnataka Lokayukta Y Bhaskar Rao, Opposition parties on Tuesday petitioned the Assembly Speaker initiating the process for his exit over an alleged extortion racket in the anti-graft ombudsman’s office involving his son.A petition seeking removal of Rao as Lokayukta with 46 members of BJP and 37 of JD(S) signing it was separately submitted to Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa, as the winter session of the state legislature is underway.Rao, who has been sticking to his guns despite calls for his resignation, is on a long leave since July after his son Ashwin Rao was arrested by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in connection with the case.Speaking to reporters after receiving the petition, Thimmappa said, “As per the amended Act, at least 72 members have to sign, so there is adequate numbers now. I will call for a meeting of all parties and discuss how to go forward and will then take the action. We will come to a decision in two or three days.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Terming it a “legally complicated matter”, Thimmappa said, “I want to have a unanimous opinion on this.” Thimmappa said after verifying the petition, he and Chairman of the Legislative Council will have to write to the High Court Chief Justice to constitute an inquiry committee. “…..the three members, consisting two members appointed by Chief Justice and one member appointed by us will inquire and come out with a finding which will be placed before the Legislature and final decision will be taken.” “…as this matter will go before the committee that will have retired High Court Judge, we will have to look at things responsibly and move forward in this matter,” he added.Under attack from the Opposition for allegedly soft-pedalling serious charges of corruption in the office of the Lokayukta, the state government had in July tabled the Karnataka Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2015 pertaining to removal of anti-corruption ombudsman, which was passed. The passage of the bill has made the process of removal of the Lokayukta simpler. Karnataka Lokayukta Joint Commissioner (PRO) Syed Riaz and a few others were also arrested in connection with the scandal. The scandal came to light after Lokayukta Superintendent of Police Sonia Narang wrote a letter to the Registrar of Karnataka Lokayukta, about the complaint she received from a person who alleged that someone from the Lokayukta office demanded Rs 1 crore in bribe to avoid a raid.Speaking to reporters after meeting the Speaker, Leader of Opposition BJP in the Assembly Jagadish Shettar said, “we expect this process for the removal of Lokayukta is completed soon.” “Lokayukta institution which is to protect people is on the verge of loosing its significance today, because of Bhaskar Rao…; his removal is of prime importance to protect this institution….” he added. Expressing a similar opinion, JD(S) leader Y S V Datta said that at the Business Advisory Committee meeting yesterday all the parties including the ruling party leaders have expressed feeling that Lokayukta Bhaskar Rao has to go. “….by initiating this process we will be able to send a clear message to people that legislature is in no way trying to protect Lokayukta,” he added.According to the Act, the notice of motion for removal of Lokayukta may be given in writing to the Speaker or Chairman of the state Council duly signed by not less than one-third of the total membership of both the Houses. On admission of the motion, they shall refer the matter to the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court for investigation on the grounds over which the removal is prayed for.If the misbehaviour or incapacity of Lokayukta shall be deemed to have been proved by the inquiry, it is then taken up for consideration by the House where the motion for removal is pending. Once the motion is adopted, an address praying for removal is presented to the Governor duly signed by the Speaker and the Chairman. Once the Governor gives assent to the address, the Lokayukta shall be deemed to have been removed from office in accordance with the law.The investigation for proof of misbehaviour or incapacity of Lokayukta has to be done as provided in the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968, by a three-member committee, comprising two judges and a jurist. The entire process is expected to take some months before it sees the exit of Lokayukta.

AAP asks Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung to come clean on OP Chautala parole issue

New Delhi: Stepping up its offensive, Aam Aadmi Party on Friday challenged Lt Governor Najeeb Jung to deny that he had received another parole request from former Haryana Chief Minister OP Chautala and had “pressurised” Delhi Home Minister Satyendra Jain to approve it.

Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung. Reuters

Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung. Reuters

Accusing Jung of “concealing” the truth and trying to “save the corrupt”, AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha said the Lt Governor was trying to “misled” people on the issue.

On being asked about the basis of these claims, the AAP spokesperson said that the LG’s “statements and file notings” clearly indicated it and urged him to come clear on “who forced him to do so.”

Party leader Deepak Bajpai alleged that “whenever cases of corruption come to the fore, Jung tries to put curtains over them…case in point is the transfer of VAT Commissioner.

“We challenge the LG to deny that he had received a second parole request on 16 October based on which he pressurised the Home Minister,” party leader Deepak Bajpai said.

A Delhi government official on Thursday said that Chautala had filed a fresh plea on 16 October after his first plea for parole was rejected by LG on 5 October earlier this month.

Chadha claimed that Jung had also circumvented transaction rules of Delhi government by directly asking a home department official to get him a file on Chautala’s request for transfer to a Punjab prison.

“Why did the LG take special interest in Chautala’s request for a transfer to a Punjab prison? Is it because Punjab is BJP-ruled?” Chadha asked.

He also said Jung had granted a one-month parole extension to Chautala earlier this year “disregarding” the objection of the Delhi government in this regard. “The government had outright rejected the proposal.”

Chuatala, his son and three others are serving ten years imprisonment in teachers’ recruitment racket case.

PTI

Delhi Cabinet passes resolution against L-G Najeeb Jung in fresh row

New Delhi: In an unprecedented move, the Delhi Cabinet on Friday passed resolutions, challenging Lt Governor Najeeb Jung’s authority to relieve the VAT Commissioner who it alleged was targeted for “fighting graft”, and appointed a GoM to protect bureaucrats from “political victimisation”.

Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung. Reuters

Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung. Reuters

In the first resolution, the Cabinet, presided over by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, asked Jung to explain the “compelling circumstances” which forced him to transfer Vijay Kumar and wanted to know whether it was linked to the raids the bureaucrat carried out against 200 fraudulent companies as well as on an international food chain.

The Cabinet posed four specific questions to the LG which included whether it was true that he had summoned Kumar after passing his relieving order and threatened him to leave Delhi immediately and that whether he received written or oral instructions from PMO or MHA to relieve the tax official.

Rebutting the charges, the LG’s Secretariat said Jung acted on the basis of orders from the Ministry of Home Affairs. It said Home Ministry on 9 October had issued directions that five officers who were earlier transferred from Delhi to other Union Territories since should be relieved with immediate effect. It said Kumar’s name figured among these five officers.

Talking about reports of alleged intimidation of officers by the LG, Jung’s office said it did not wish to comment on the issue in view of “several episodes of poor treatment” meted out by the elected government to the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, Power Secretary and Law Secretary and others.

In the second resolution, the Cabinet decided to appoint a GoM which will protect officers from political victimisation and authorised it to take all steps required to deal with such issues including providing legal support at government’s cost.

The Cabinet slammed Jung for relieving Kumar without consulting the elected government and said, “Unilateralism is one thing. Acting outside the remit of one’s own powers is another.

“It requires special mention here that LG does not have the powers to relieve officers. It is the elected executive, which alone has the power to do so. Therefore, such action on the part of LG was also an illegal and invalid exercise of power,” a resolution passed by the Cabinet said.

In a statement, the government said Kumar had raided a well-connected trader in Old Delhi, an international food chain and a politically powerful dealer of automobiles. The last VAT raid under his leadership was on the night of September 30.

“In this raid, as many as 200 fraudulent companies that existed only on paper, were discovered. These companies have been found to be involved in massive and organised tax evasions,” it said.

The AAP government alleged an international hawala dealer, wanted by the Interpol, is suspected to be behind the network of 200 companies and that details of the case have been shared with the Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate.

It said that in the last 23 years, never before had any LG directly relieved an officer.

The Cabinet felt the VAT Commissioner had taken several important and “crucial steps to prevent large scale tax theft and began a crack-down against organised tax evasion syndicates”.

“Clearly, there ought to be extremely compelling reasons which made LG to take such an extraordinary and unprecedented step,” said the government.

The LG’s office, however, clarified that there has never been any recommendation from the LG’s Secretariat to the Ministry of Home Affairs requesting for transfer of any of the five officers.

Holding that public perception about the transfer was that there was manipulation by extraneous forces, the AAP government said an honest and transparent dispensation cannot remain oblivious to popular perceptions and disregard the public mood.

“This government cannot allow the vested interests, however powerful that they be, to call shots,” it said.

In the second resolution, the Cabinet “took a serious view” of the fact that several senior officers have informed the government that “they had been summoned by LG and were threatened of dire consequences including police action by instituting bogus inquiries against them if they refuse to partake in the exercise of obstructing the functioning of Delhi government.”

“These officers were told to paralyse the elected Aam Aadmi Party government by making adverse and obstructionist file notings against the government’s decisions.

“The government has been further informed that the above mentioned intimidating and coercive tactics adopted by the LG have intensified over the last one month,” the resolution said.

It said “it has also been brought to the notice of the government that the Hon’ble LG has been misusing the names of top officials of the central government to pressurise the officers to act in an illegal manner.

“It has been brought to the notice of the government that in case the officers did not acquiesce, they would invite the wrath of the central government and their civil service careers would be destroyed.”

The Cabinet felt it was a “clear attempt to subvert the functioning of a democratically elected government which had come to power with a thumping majority.”

The GoM will be chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and will consist of Home Minister Satyendar Jain and Transport Minister Gopal Rai as members. Principal Secretary (Services) will be Secretary to the GOM.

PTI

Justice Reva Khetrapal to be Delhi’s new Lokayukta

The 63-year-old judge’s name was recommended to the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court by AAP government in July as well as earlier this month.

Justice Reva Khetrapal’s name was unanimously agreed upon for the post. (Image source: All India Radio News Twitter handle)

Former Delhi High Court judge Reva Khetrapal will be Delhi’s new Lokayukta, a post which was lying vacant since 2013. Justice Khetrapal was chosen unanimously for the post on Tuesday by a four-member panel comprising Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Justice of Delhi High Court G Rohini and Leader of Opposition leader in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta. Jung will recommend her name to President Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow for appointing her as Delhi Lokayukta.The 63-year-old judge’s name was recommended to the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court by AAP government in July as well as earlier this month. The other two judges whose names were suggested by the AAP government were retired Chief Justice of Orissa High Court Bilal Nazki and retired Chief Justice of Haryana and Punjab High Court Jasbir Singh. BJP and Congress had been cornering the AAP government over the vacant post of Lokayukta and also accused it of delaying to fill up the same. As per Delhi Lokayukta and Uplokayukta Act, 1995, term of Lokayukta is for five years. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Justice Reva Khetrapal’s name was unanimously agreed upon for the post. With this, a long pending issue has come to a logical conclusion. The institution of Lokayukta is crucial to ensure corruption free governance and to maintain high level of probity in the public domain,” said BJP’s Gupta.Khetrapal was additional judge in the Delhi High Court between February 28, 2006 and September 22, 2014. She was also Additional District and Sessions Judge in 1991 and was posted as Special Judge (Narcotics) in 1994. She was appointed as Secretary, Press Council of India in 1999. In August, former Law Commission Chairman and former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court A P Shah had turned down the Kejriwal government’s offer to appoint him as the new Delhi Lokayukta.The last Lokayukta, Justice (Retd) Manmohan Sarin, had relinquished office in November, 2013, following a five-year term. Since then, the post is lying vacant.

CM Arvind Kejriwal set to deliver biggest poll promise, says Jan Lokayukta bill almost ready

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had told the Delhi High Court in July that it has initiated the process to appoint Lokayukta, a post which has remained vacant since November 2013.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday that the state government’s Jan Lokayukta Bill is almost ready. He also said that they should be able to present it in next session of assembly.The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had told the Delhi High Court in July that it has initiated the process to appoint Lokayukta, a post which has remained vacant since November 2013.An affidavit by Delhi government’s concerned department was filed before Justice V P Vaish saying that it is “firmly committed to implementing the Lokayukta Act”. It sought dismissal of a former BJP MLA’s petition seeking direction to immediately fill up the post of Lokayukta, saying it is “motivated petition, filed… for achieving narrow political gains” and not “public interest”.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Proviso (A) to Section 3 of Lokayukta Act, mandates that Lokayukta is to be appointed in consultation with Delhi High Court Chief Justice and the Leader of Opposition. The answering respondent (Delhi government) in compliance of the said statuary mandates, initiated the process of consultation by submitting its suggestion for filling in the vacant post of Lokayukta in a sealed cover, by a letter date July 10, 2015, to Delhi High Court Chief Justice,” the Delhi government affidavit said.

Delhi govt attacks Najeeb Jung over ACB’s decision to file chargesheet in Rs.100 crore transport scam

In a letter to the vigilance department head, the deputy CM of Delhi has stated that he is surprised that within a few days after setting up the ‘commission of inquiry’, the ACB has decided to ‘close down the investigation by filing chargesheet’.

Aside from the routine skirmishes between Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government, a major showdown between the two may soon be in the offing. It was only two days ago that Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had blamed Jung over the razing of hutments in Delhi’s Mehrauli area, without rehabilitating its residents, while Jung had complained to the chief justice of Delhi high court about the Delhi government’s delay in appointing the Lokayukta. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Now, Kejriwal’s right hand man Manish Sisodia has sought a report from the anti-corruption branch, on why Delhi government was not kept in the loop on its recently-completed inquiry on the Rs.100 crore transport scam for which it will be filing a chargesheet in the next few days. In a letter to the vigilance department head, the deputy CM of Delhi has stated that he is surprised that within a few days after setting up the ‘commission of inquiry’, the ACB has decided to ‘close down the investigation by filing chargesheet’. “In the last few months, there has been a direct interference by Hon’ble Lt Governor in the functioning of the anti-corruption branch. CBI, in its report on 01.09.2014 had raised serious questions about the role of hon’ble Lt Governor in CNG scam,” Sisodia’s letter stated.Taking on Jung directly, he stated, “How could a person against whom there are direct allegations, sanction chargesheet? Was the chargesheet shown to Hon’ble Lt Governor? It is a settled position that no one can be the judge in his own case.”The Delhi government had recently set up a commission of inquiry to probe into the CNG scam fitness scam of 2012 which alleged involvement of several senior government officials as well as former Delhi CM Sheila Dixit. While Jung had declared the commission of inquiry null and void upon the union home ministry’s directions, Sisodia had said the commission will continue the probe.However, the ACB that is a war-zone between the Kejriwal government and Jung, had been carrying out an independent inquiry on Jung’s orders. It has recently completed the inquiry and will reportedly file a 1000-page chargesheet within the next two days. Sources said Jung has also sanctioned filing of the chargesheet.Sisodia demanded to know that if the chargesheet was actually shown to Jung, then why was Delhi government bypassed. He quoted the Government of NCT of Delhi (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1993 framed by the President of India u/s 44 of GNCTD Act, according to which ACB is a wing of vigilance department. “Then why was vigilance department bypassed?” he asked.In the letter, Sisodia has sought a report on the issue from SS Yadav and MK Meena, who are in charge of the ACB by September 7.While Yadav was appointed by the Delhi government as the ACB in-charge, Meena was appointed in June by Jung for the position of the ACB chief, against AAP’s wishes. For a long while, AAP refused to accept Meena’s appointment, following which the party was forced to soften its stand. The matter is sub-judice at present.The AAP has also attacked Jung over its recent letter to the chief justice on the delay in appointment of the Lokyukta on the Delhi government’s part. On Wednesday, Delhi government spokesperson Nagendar Sharma tweeted, “LG sir do you deliberately mark your letters to BJP leaders so that the onus of leaking privileged communication is not on you?”

Governor Ram Naik rejects UP government’s Lokayukta nominee for fifth time

The Samajwadi Party (SP) has taken umbrage over what it calls the Governor’s “politicking” and said the Governor is bound to respect the decisions of an elected government. The BJP has asked why the CM was hell bent upon appointing his relative as the Lokayukta.

In a development which is as unprecedented as it is embarrassing for the Akhilesh Yadav regime, Governor Ram Naik has rejected – for the fifth time – the name of Justice Ravindra Singh Yadav (retired) proposed by the state government for appointment as the Lokayukta.The Samajwadi Party (SP) has taken umbrage over what it calls the Governor’s “politicking” and said the Governor is bound to respect the decisions of an elected government. The BJP has asked why the CM was hell bent upon appointing his relative as the Lokayukta.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As per constitutional norms, the Governor can return any file, sent to him by the government for his approval, only once. If the government sends the file for a second time, the Governor has no choice but to clear it. However, legal experts say this is not a constitutional matter.For his part, the Governor has virtually shifted into combat mode. On Tuesday, after returning the file, the Governor spoke to the press rather bitterly about the government’s mulish persistence with its choice for the prestigious post. His secretariat released the content of the letter the Governor had written while rejecting the government proposal, to the media.”The tug-of-war between the government and the Governor is very unfortunate. But, it’s not a constitutional matter as the appointment of Lokayukta is not done under the Constitution but under state acts,” said retired judge CB Pande. He said that the Governor was not bound to clear the government’s proposal if it was returned to him despite his objections.The Governor also asserted his authority as he spoke with the media. “The government expects that I will work as a rubber stamp. They say I am bound to agree to their proposal. But, there are Supreme Court orders regarding the Lokayukta’s appointment which are completely to the contrary.”The Governor expressed his displeasure over the manner in which the government had gone about the appointment. “The CM has not even once held a meeting with the leader of the opposition and the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court as laid down in the Act. They have cleared this name in a cabinet meeting. The cabinet has no role in the Lokayukta’s appointment,” he said.In his letter, Naik has pointed out that since the Chief Justice had mentioned Justice Yadav’s proximity with ruling party leaders, his name should not be proposed by the government. In effect, the Governor has finally rejected Yadav’s candidature.In its communiqué, the state government had asserted that the Governor was bound by the advice of an elected government, and that the cabinet decision should be honoured. It also said that the Lokayukta Act only provided for conferring with the opposition leader and the High Court Chief Justice, but their advice was not binding on the government.However, Ram Naik, an old BJP warhorse, is apparently far from being convinced. The face-off promises to snowball into a major embarrassment for the Akhilesh regime.SP leader Naresh Agarwal: “The Governor is acting at the behest of the Centre and creating problems for our government. He can only return the government’s proposal once. He is bound to accept the advice of the elected government.”UP BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpayee: “The CM should explain why he is so interested in getting his relative appointed as the Lokayukta.”

Karnataka Lokayukta’s son remanded to 10-day SIT custody

The prosecution had submitted before judge G V Bopaiah that it was necessary for the SIT to keep Ashwin Rao in custody for at least 14 days, to arrive at the truth.

The Lokayukta court sent state Lokayukta Bhaskar Rao’s son to 10-day SIT custody in connection with a bribery scandal that has brought the anti-graft institution under a cloud.The prosecution had submitted before judge G V Bopaiah that it was necessary for the SIT to keep Ashwin Rao in custody for at least 14 days, to arrive at the truth.The image of Lokayukta institution had taken a beating due to the bribery scandal and it was necessary for SIT to obtain Ashwin’s custody to arrive at the truth and erase the disrepute brought to the anti-graft agency, prosecution said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On the other hand, the defence counsel pleaded that his client should not be remanded because there is no documentary evidence to prove his guilt, except telling the other accused to do “the needful.” It was also submitted that the very nature of Rao’s arrest raised a serious question because SIT officials were at his Hyderabad residence two and half hours earlier to the filing of the FIR.Rao was arrested in Hyderabad yesterday in connection with the alleged extortion racket, which has led to calls for resignation of the Lokayukta who has, however, been insisting he would quit only if wrongdoing by his son was proved.The Lokayukta’s son was arrested based on an FIR filed against him by an executive engineer that he was asked to pay Rs 1 crore to avoid a raid.

Amitabh Thakur meets Lokayukta; gives details of his annual property returns

Handing over a copy of the complaint, Justice Mehrotra gave him 15 days to submit his reply by August 6.
File Photo
Image Courtesy: ANI Twitter
Responding to a complaint against him, suspended IPS officer Amitabh Thakur on Thursday met Lokayukta Justice (retd) N K Mehrotra and gave him details of five years of his annual property returns.After presenting his property details, Thakur requested the Lokayukta that action should be taken against Sanjay Sharma, who gave a complaint against him, if his allegation was proved wrong.”Sharma was dismissed from government service on charges of improper conduct towards his female coworkers etc. He seems to be making such allegations against me on other person’s directions. If his allegations are proved wrong during enquiry, action should be taken against him under section 13(1) of the Lokayukta Act for willful and malicious false complaint,” Thakur said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Handing over a copy of the complaint, Justice Mehrotra gave him 15 days to submit his reply by August 6.On July 21, RTI activist Sharma had submitted a complaint to Lokayukta accusing Thakur and his wife of possessing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. Sharma had submitted 60-70 page complaint alleging that Thakur misused his position as IG and both he and his wife possessed properties disproportionate to their known sources of income. He had given the complaint on three points and sought a probe into the sources of income through which the couple bought massive properties.”Prima facie, it appears that both the husband and wife possess some 57,000 sq ft of residential land which cannot be bought over by an honest public servant and so I have demanded that the sources of the income through which it has been acquired should also be probed,” Sharma said.”Their immovable properties should also be investigated,” he said, adding he has also demanded a probe to see if any racket was going on through their NGOs since the woman who has levelled rape charges has claimed that she had been criminally assaulted on the promise of a job.Sharma, who has accused Thakur of misusing his office and position, said his complaints are based on replies that he got to his RTI queries and also contain some points of those queries that remained unanswered.The IPS officer was suspended on July 13 by the Uttar Pradesh government hours after he approached the Union Home Ministry in New Delhi seeking a CBI probe into the rape charges slapped against him. The rape charges came days after Thakur lodged a complaint against the SP chief for allegedly threatening him.Thakur was served a 200-page charge sheet on July 15 charging him with dereliction of duty, arbitrariness and indiscipline, and he submitted a 30-page reply saying he was “not at fault”.

BJP attacks AAP government for ‘spending crores’ on advertisement

BJP on Friday threatened to approach the apex court if the TV commercial was not withdrawn soon.

The AAP-led Delhi government on Saturday came under attack from BJP for spending “crores of public money” in advertisements for political gains.BJP on Friday threatened to approach the apex court if the TV commercial was not withdrawn soon. BJP said the Arvind Kejriwal regime was following previous Sheila Dikshit dispensation in the matter of advertisements.The opposition party also took potshots at the state government for keeping 21 Parliamentary Secretaries out of the purview of “office of profit” clause terming it as “theatrics”. BJP slammed AAP-led Delhi Government for allegedly spending “crores” of public money promoting itself for “political gains”. “Money from public exchequer is being used for promoting individuals (including Chief Minister Kejriwal) in the government for political gains. Earlier, Sheila Dikshit had done so.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The Lokayukta had then found her guilty. She had spent Rs 22 crore. Now, AAP has spent Rs 5 crore to propagate itself,” claimed Vijender Gupta, Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly. Referring to AAP government’s advertisements, which claim to have controlled corruption, Gupta sought to know who these people are.”The Government has not disclosed their names, but is spending crores of rupees on erecting hoardings to claim credit,” Gupta said claiming the campaign is a case of violation of a Supreme Court order. Meanwhile, the BJP legislator ridiculed the state government for providing “all the facilities” to 21 Parliamentary Secretaries, but keeping them out of the purview of ‘office of profit’ clause.”These are all theatrics. The Parliamentary Secretaries have been given offices, vehicles, are being treated like ministers. They can go through files. Government has provided them several facilities. Crores of rupees are being spent on Parliamentary secretaries. Then you say they don’t fall in the ‘office of profit’ category. This is contradictory,” he said. As per Article 239(A) of Constitution, number of Cabinet ministers in Delhi can not exceed 10 percent of total 70 Assembly seats, that is 7. However, Gupta quipped, Delhi has 28 ministers given the kind of facilities Parliamentary Secretaries are receiving.

Cabinet okays increasing penalty for corruption to maximum 7 years

New Delhi: Bringing corruption into the heinous crime category, the Union Cabinet today approved official amendments to an anti-graft legislation enhancing the penalty under it to a maximum of seven years imprisonment from the present five years.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The proposed amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 provides for more stringent punishment for the offences of bribery–both for the bribe giver and the bribe taker.

“Penal provisions being enhanced from minimum six months to three years and from maximum five years to seven years (the seven year imprisonment brings corruption to the heinous crime category),” a press release said.

To ensure speedy conclusion of corruption cases, a time limit of two years has been proposed.

“The average trial period of cases under PC Act in the last four years has been above eight years. It is proposed to ensure speedy trial by providing a trial completion (period) within two years,” it said.

It is also proposed to extend the protection of prior sanction for prosecution to public servants who cease to hold office due to retirement, resignation etc.

“Further, prior sanction for inquiry and investigation shall be required from the Lokpal or Lokayukta, as the case may be, for investigation of offences relatable to recommendations made or decision taken by a public servant in discharge of official functions or duties,” the release said.

The official amendments, approved today by the Cabinet will be the part of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013 pending in Rajya Sabha, also provides guidelines for commercial organisations to prevent persons associated with them from bribing a public servant.

PTI

Ready for open debate with Modi on Land Bill, says Anna Hazare

“There is a possibility of some decision (emerging out of the debate) if Modi participates in the debate and there is a discussion with four-five of us in the (anti-Land bill) movement. We expect that Modi informs us the day, venue and time for the open debate,” the 77-year-old campaigner said.

While sticking to his stand that the NDA Government’s Land bill is loaded against the interests of farmers, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Friday said he was ready for an open debate with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue if something concrete emerged from it.”You have called for an open debate. We accept this. But there is very small possibility of a concrete decision emerging out of such a debate,” Hazare said in his reply to a letter written by Union minister Nitin Gadkari on the vexed issue.”There is a possibility of some decision (emerging out of the debate) if Modi participates in the debate and there is a discussion with four-five of us in the (anti-Land bill) movement. We expect that Modi informs us the day, venue and time for the open debate,” the 77-year-old campaigner said.
He, however, said, “There is not a single thing in the bill, which is in the interest of farmers.”Hazare, who has called a ‘jai bharo’ agitation against the bill, also expressed misgivings about the Centre’s assurance that job will be provided to a member of the family of the farmer whose land is acquired.”What is the guarantee ? Such assurances have been made in the past also,” he said.”We will give priority to the battle against corruption. Lokpal Lokayukta legislation is in place, but not being implemented,” Hazare added.

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