The appointment of former judge of Allahabad High Court Justice Virendra Singh as Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta was on Saturday put on hold after the Supreme Court held a special sitting on a holiday and posed embarrassing questions to the Samajwadi Party government, which was accused of concealing facts and "playing fraud".
Hearing a fresh petition challenging the appointment, a bench comprising justices A K Goel and U U Lalit asked Uttar Pradesh government as to how the name of Justice Singh was placed before the bench concerned, which decided on Singh's appointment, when the chief justice of Allahabad high court, Justice D Y Chandrachud, had specifically made some objections to his name.
UP's Advocate General Gaurav Bhatia gave an undertaking in court that the Lokayukta's swearing-in ceremony will not be held on Saturday and that the state government would wait for the outcome of the fresh petition on the issue and respond to averments made in it when the court would hear the matter on January 4.
Later in the evening, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik deferred the oath taking of the new Lokayukta.
State Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan had sought the Governor's approval for keeping the swearing in abeyance, a Raj Bhawan release said in Lucknow.
In an unusual order, Apex court had, on December 16, exercised its constitutional power and appointed Justice Singh as Lokayukta by recording failures of the panel, comprising the chief minister, the leader of opposition and the HC chief justice, in selecting the chief of ombudsman despite orders.
The bench on Saturday took note of the fresh petition filed by UP resident Sachidanand Gupta that immediately after the appointment, the chief justice of the high court had written a letter to Governor Ram Naik expressing his displeasure against the state government for not disclosing the true facts that he had some reservations on Singh's name.
After hearing submissions of advocate Kamini Jaiswal, the bench put some searching questions to AAG Gaurav Bhatia asking that why there has been no denial of stated position taken by the chief justice and widely reported in the media.
Bhatia was given an opportunity to seek instruction and respond to the queries of the bench which re-assembled after a break of ten minutes.
The AAG then gave the undertaking. The fresh plea seeks a direction to quash a December 18 order of the government appointing Justice Singh as Lokayukta.
The fresh plea said, "The state government has violated the essential condition of rule of law, by neither apprising this court of the correct facts and also not approaching this court to apprise it of the true facts even after the chief justice of Allahabad high court had expressed that the name of Justice (Retd.) Virendra Singh/Respondent No.3 had been dropped by the chief minister himself.
"The so called 'communication gap' between the chief justice of Allahabad high court and the chief minister about which there is no mention before this court during the hearing on 16.12.2015 is destructive of the fundamental conditions upon which the Constitution of India rests - i.e. rule of law, truth and constitutional morality."
The tenure of UP Lokayukta is at least eight years and once the high court chief justice has apprised principal secretary of the Governor and the state's chief secretary that the name of Justice Singh was "not even in fray and was not in consideration", it was obligatory on authorities to "approach this court and apprise this court regarding the same; rather than to advise the Governor of UP to issue a formal order of appointment of Justice Singh as Lokayukta," it said.
Earlier, the Apex court had examined a list of nominees and ordered the appointment of Justice Singh as Lokayukta.
"The failure of constitutional functionaries to comply with the orders of the highest court of the land is deeply regretted and astonishing... We, therefore, proceed to exercise our right under Article 142 of the Constitution to remedy the situation by passing an appropriate order," it had said.
The bench had regretted that its several orders have not been "heeded" by the constitutional functionaries -- the chief minister, the leader of opposition and the chief justice of the Allahabad high court.
On December 14, the apex court had rapped the UP government for not appointing Lokayukta in the state despite its directions and had asked them appoint by December 16.
The bench was hearing the pleas filed by Gupta, Mahendra Kumar Jain and lawyer Shiv Kumar Tripathi seeking a direction to the state to appoint the Lokayukta at the earliest in pursuance of the Supreme Court orders.