New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved verdict on pleas seeking recall of its order appointing Justice Virendra Singh, a former judge of Allahabad High Court, as the Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh, saying it has been "misled" on the issue.
The controversy surrounding Justice Singh, appointed by the apex court as Lokayukta on the ground that the selection panel of the Chief Minister, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of the High Court did not appoint anybody in last 20 months despite its orders, took the centre stage in the proceedings.
"Certainly not," the bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said when senior advocate T R Andhyarujina submitted as to whether Justice Singh would have been appointed by it if the state had apprised the court about the reservations of the High Court Chief Justice against him.
Andhyarujina said, "the Chief Justice suspected the integrity of Justice (Virendra) Singh" and it was agreed to by the Chief Minister and the Leader of Opposition that his name will be dropped, but still his name was given to this court.
"They have misled us. We will deal with them," the bench said, adding that still, it will not send the issue of appointment back to the collegium. "There is no question of primacy of views of the Chief Justice. The Chief Minister, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice did not do anything for 20 months...whatever is appropriate, we will do. Leave it to us," the bench said.
"We will respect the opinion of the Chief Justice of the High Court. Give us the material. They did not do anything for 20 months.
"The moment we appointed somebody, all hell broke loose. The unfortunate part of this is that all the parties did not act...We are used to being blamed. Blame us. We don't bother about all this," the bench said, adding that the selection panel did not "respect" the orders leading to a "painful" situation.
At the outset, the bench, which also comprised Justice Prafulla C Pant, made clear that it is not going to vacate its order appointing Justice Singh as Lokayukta till there were compelling circumstances to do so.
"Unless there are compelling reasons, shocking our conscience, we will not vacate our order," it said.
The bench said it passed the order under Article 142 of the Constitution as the authorities did not act and sought materials on the allegations against Justice Singh, saying one cannot question the integrity of a person without any proof.
The court also said that though it does "sit in appeal" on the satisfaction of the HC Chief Justice, but there has to be some material.
"What are the specific objections of the Chief Justice to the name of Justice Singh? Can you give us the material," it asked, adding that the bench took out the names from the list provided by the state and it could have been anybody.
"This was incumbent upon the state to tell this court that his name was dropped and there was no consensus on his name," Andhyarujina said.
Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners, said there have been misrepresentation and there have been complaints made to the Governor against the person.
"The court has been misled/persuaded by the state government into appointing Justice Virendra Singh," he said.
The apex court had on December 16 last year exercised its constitutional authority and appointed Justice Singh as Lokayukta, saying the constitutional functionaries-- the Chief Minister, the leader of opposition and the Allahabad High Court Chief Justice -- had failed to comply with its orders by not appointing the chief of the state's anti-graft ombudsman.
During the winter vacation, the Supreme Court had heard a fresh plea filed by one Sachidanand Gupta who had alleged that the SP government had "concealed facts" about Justice Singh and "played fraud" upon the apex court.
The state government had also told the court that it will not go ahead with the oath ceremony of Justice Singh as Lokayukta till the apex court had heard the plea.
The court had taken note of the fresh plea which alleged that immediately after the appointment, the HC Chief Justice had written a letter to Governor Ram Naik expressing his displeasure with the state government for not disclosing the facts that he had some reservations on Singh's name.
The plea had sought quashing of the December 18 order of the UP government appointing Justice Singh as Lokayukta....