A Petition has been filed before the Supreme Court demanding that uniform guidelines be laid down for appointment of State Lokayuktas and Up-Lokayuktas.
The Petition, filed by former DGP of MP and convener of Bhopal Citizens' Forum Mr. Arun Gartoo, brings to the notice of the Court the fact that till now, only 21 States and Union Territories have a Lokayukt legislation in place. Besides, all these States have varied procedures for appointing a Lokayukta. While some give the power exclusively to the Chief Justice, others prescribe a consultation between the Chief Justice and the Leader of Opposition. Some procedures involve the Speaker and the Chief Minister as well. Supreme Court has issued notice.
Senior Advocates Vivek Tankha and Kapil Sibal appeared for the petitioner Arun Gurtoo who is a retired IPS officer of the 1962 Batch from the Madhya Pradesh Cadre, more pertinently, has served as DGP (Lokayukta).
It then contends, "Therefore, it can clearly be seen that there is no uniformity in the same, and in various instances, important stakeholders have been left out of the consultative process altogether. Therefore, the entire Lokayukt appointment process, when viewed through the lens of national perspective, is incongruous and there is an urgent need to streamline the same by issuance of appropriate guidelines regarding such appointment so that the process may not be subverted and misused, as has been done in the instant case."
According to the petition, only 21 States/UTs have in place a Lokayukt legislation, being (1) Andhra Pradesh (2) Assam (3) Arunachal Pradesh (4) Bihar (5) Chhattisgarh (6) Delhi (7) Goa (8) Gujarat (9) Haryana (10) Himachal Pradesh (11) Jharkhand (12) Karnataka (13) Kerala (14) Madhya Pradesh (15) Maharashtra (16) Orissa (17) Punjab (18) Rajasthan (19) Uttarakhand (20) Uttar Pradesh (21) West Bengal. There are no Lokayuktas in Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and Tripura. All the states have in place various modes of appointment for the institution, which a somewhat at variance with one another. To summarise, the same can broadly be classified under the following heads, based on the stakeholders involved in the process of consultation for appointment:
a) Chief Justice – Andhra Pradesh
b) Chief Justice & Leader of Opposition – Delhi, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh
c) Chief Justice, Speaker & Leader of Opposition – Assam, Kerala
d) Chief Minister, Chief Justice & Leader of Opposition – Goa, Himachal Pradesh
e) Chief Minister, Speaker & Leader of Opposition – West Bengal
f) Chief Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker & Leader of Opposition - Haryana
g) Speaker, Chairman (Legislative Council), Two High Court Judges & Outgoing Lokayukt – Bihar
h) Chief Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker, Chairman (Legislative Council) & Leader of Opposition – Karnataka
"Therefore, it can clearly be seen that there is no uniformity in the same, and in various instances, important stakeholders have been left out of the consultative process altogether. Therefore, the entire Lokayukta appointment process, when viewed through the lens of national perspective, is incongruous and there is an urgent need to streamline the same by issuance of appropriate guidelines regarding such appointment so that the process may not be subverted and misused, as has been done in the instant case.
That with the enactment of the Lokpal & Lokayuktas Act 2013, uniform rules, regulations and guidelines have been prescribed for appointment of Lokpal in the form of the Search Committee (Constitution, Terms and Conditions of appointment of members and the manner of selection of Panel of Names for appointment of Chairperson and Members of Lokpal) Rules 2014. Therefore, there is a pressing need for this Hon’ble Court to issue guidelines for all states in the process of appointment of Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta as given in the 2014 Rules", states the petition.
MP Lokayukta appointment challenged
The Petition also challenges the appointment of Justice (retd.) Naresh Kumar Gupta as the Lokayukta for the State of Madhya Pradesh.
Mr. Gartoo relies on Section 3 of the Madhya Pradesh Lokayukt And Up-Lokayukt Act, 1981, which mandates that a proper consultation be held between the Chief Minister, Chief Justice of the High Court and the Leader of Opposition of the Legislative Assembly of the State, before appointment of the Lokayukta. This consultation, he alleges, was not undertaken while appointing Justice Gupta, as his was the only name that was considered for appointment.
The Petition relies on a judgment rendered by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of Ajit Kumar Versus The State of Jharkhand &Ors., (2002) 2 JLJR 353 (HC), wherein it was held that considering one person and accepting his nomination does not go with the spirit of the Act.
It further contends that the Up-Lokayukta, who had been looking after the organization since the post of Lokayukta fell vacant in June, 2016, has been superseded, even though he is six years senior to Justice Gupta.
Mr. Gartoo submits that the fact of only one name being forwarded for consideration was revealed by the Leader of Opposition, Mr. Ajay Singh himself. As per the Petition, Mr. Singh had also accepted that he was not made aware about the nuances pertaining to seniority. The entire process, Mr. Gartoo therefore contends, "reeks of arbitrariness and foul play".
The Petition then demands that the correspondence and records involved in Justice Gupta's appointment be disclosed and his appointment be quashed. Thereafter, fresh process for appointment has been demanded to be initiated. In the meantime, stay on Justice Gupta's appointment has been demanded, with a direction to the State to stop assigning him any official work as an interim measure.