Appoint Lokayukta

The appointment of Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta in Karnataka, which is already held up by more than a year, should not be delayed any longer.

The Supreme Court decision last week to quash the appointment of Chandrashekaraiah as the Upa Lokayukta, while at the same time clarifying that the chief minister has the primacy in making appointments to the posts of Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta has the effect of restoring the constitutional position.

The SC bench upheld the Karnataka high court decision to annul Chandrashekaraiah’s appointment, but found serious fault with the high court setting new guidelines for the selection to these quasi-judicial posts. The high court’s direction to accord primacy to the views of the chief justice of the court, the Supreme Court held, was “beyond the scope of the Lokayukta Act” and that the high court had “indulged in a legislative exercise which is impermissible in law.”

The Karnataka Lokayukta Act makes it clear that the chief minister has the prerogative to make the final recommendation on the names for the posts of Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta after a due process of consultation with five constitutional authorities, including the Chief Justice, the Speaker of the Assembly, the Chairman of the legislative Council and the Leaders of Opposition in both the Houses. But the Karnataka high court, in its wisdom, sought to give primacy to the views of Chief Justice to the exclusion of others. The state government decided to challenge the order in the Supreme Court, which has now clarified that the Chief Justice is only one of the consultees and his views will be considered along others, but the final decision rests with the chief minister. The unfortunate consequence of the legal tangle is that Karnataka has gone without a Lokayukta or a Upa Lokayukta for over a year at a time the institution was handling a surfeit of corruption cases against prominent personalities including a former chief minister and several ministers in the BJP government. Now that the issue has been resolved, the Jagadish Shetter government should not waste any more time in filling up the posts with competent persons.

Still, there is need for greater clarity regarding these appointments as another bench of the Supreme Court, has recently upheld the action of the Gujarat governor who had endorsed the name suggested by the Chief Justice totally ignoring the chief minister of the state. A comprehensive central law as envisaged in the Lokpal and Lokayktas Bill could perhaps remove these anomalies.

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