The UP State Assembly yesterday amended the Lokayukta Act and reportedly dropped the High Court Chief Justice from the selection Committee, by approving the Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2015.
The Bill provides for a new four-member panel comprising Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition, Speaker and a retired Judge, who will be selected in consultation with the Chief Minister and the Speaker. As per the Bill’s objective, the amendment was brought in, following the models prevailing in Kerala, Manipur and a few other States. Originally, the selection committee comprised of the CM, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice.
It also empowers Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta to impose a fine up to Rs 1 lakh in case they find that the complaint against any person has been made with malafide intention or is intended to harass him.
The Bill was moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Khan. It was passed by voice vote amid walkout by BSP, BJP and Congress members.
The Bill was not included in the main agenda of the House but circulated as a supplementary agenda, mentioning that it will be introduced during the session. Later, Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey informed that it will be passed on Thursday itself and sent it to the Legislative Council. He turned down BJP’s request to take it up after Zero Hour as it was the last day of the Assembly session.
Justifying the amendment, Mr. Khan said that the House comprises elected representatives and it should not vest its powers to others. “Whenever there is a clash between judiciary and legislature, both will suffer losses. During a former PM’s regime, Supreme Court judges were superseded. He did not worry about resignation but took the political decision,” he added.
The Leader of Opposition, Swami Prasad Maurya however felt that the amendment was brought in a hurry and that the Government should have taken the middle path. “You have expressed lack of confidence in the chief justice and through this bill either the CJ or the government will be put on the dock,” Maurya said stressing that the bill be sent to the select committee of the House.“The legislature, judiciary and executive all have their roles and neglecting anyone of them would be murder of democracy,” he added.
Questions over the content of the Bill were also raised by BJP Legislature Party leader Suresh Khanna, saying that it was like taking arbitrary action on the basis of majority.
Mr. Khan however said that the amendment bill has been checked by the legal department and is not undemocratic as it is being passed by the state Assembly.
The amendment is being viewed as an aftermath of the tug of war that was being witnessed between the Governor Ram Naik and the Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on the appointment of Justice (Retd.) Ravindra Singh as Lokayukta, with the file recommending his name moving back and forth five times.
The Governor had refused to approve Justice Ravindra Singh’s appointment on the ground that no proper meeting of the three-member selection committee was held and also because Allahabad HC Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had expressed reservations citing Singh’s proximity to the ruling Samajwadi Party.
He had also refused to be bound by the State Cabinet’s decision, claiming that Lokayukta’s appointment has its own set procedure, in which the cabinet has no role.