In a dramatic twist 24 hours before Justice (retired) Virendra Singh is scheduled to swear in for a eight-year term as the Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta, the controversy over his candidature refused to die down. The court asked the State on Saturday to defer his formal oath-taking ceremony till January 6.
The new turn of events started when a writ petition filed in the morning reached Chief Justice of India Tirath Singh Thakur with a request for urgent hearing.
The petition said the State had played “fraud” on the Supreme Court in the case. The petition, filed by Lucknow resident and journalist Sachchidanand Gupta through advocate Kamini Jaiswal, alleged the Akhilesh Yadav government placed “incorrect facts” to compel the Supreme Court on December 16 to exercise its rare, extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to appoint Justice Singh, considered close to Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family, as the anticorruption ombudsman.
The court, which is on Christmas vacation, took prompt action during the day with the Chief Justice setting up a Special Bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U.U. Lalit to hear Mr. Gupta’s petition at 4.30 p.m.
The events at the Supreme Court reached a pitch with the Bench asking the State to defer the swearing-in till January 6. Justice Goel’s Bench then observed that it did not want to go into the merits of the allegations against the government.
It referred the case to Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s Bench, which had on December 16 employed Article 142 to appoint Justice Singh as Lokayukta, for hearing on January 4.
The writ petition alleged that the Uttar Pradesh is guilty of “arbitrary and unlawful conduct” by actively concealing before the Supreme Court that Justice Singh’s name was removed from the list of proposed candidates shortlisted for Lokayukta by Mr. Akhilesh Yadav upon reservations being expressed by Allahabad High Court Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.
The petition contended that Supreme Court was led to believe that Justice (retd.) Virendra Singh was the “number 1” candidate for the post and there was consensus on this between the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, while Chief Justice Chandrachud had expressed no opinion.
“The name of Justice (retd.) Virendra Singh was objected to by the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court after which his name was dropped, and the Chief Minister had assured him that the name would not be pursued further,” the petition contended It said that not only did the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court “express his mind” about the names on the list given by the Chief Minister, but Mr. Justice Chandrachud had also given a separate list of five names.
It is reported that Mr. Justice Chandrachud had written a detailed letter to Governor Ram Naik explaining the entire circumstances and his objections to Justice Virendra Singh. The Supreme Court for the first time in its history had appointed a Lokayukta after criticising the “failure” of the constitutional authorities of the State to comply with its orders.