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Supreme Court issues notice in appeal challenging appointment of Karnataka Upa Lokayukta for lack of effective consultation with HC Chief

The plea states that the principal question before the Apex Court is what would constitute “meaningful and effective consultation” under Section 3(2)(b) of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984.

Debayan Roy

The Supreme Court today issued notice in an appeal against a Karnataka High Court verdict which dismissed a challenge to the state government's decision to appoint Justice (retd) Bhimanagouda S Patil as Upa Lokayukta (Samaj Parivartana Samudaya v. Government of Karnataka).

Notice was issued by a Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justice V Ramasubramanian.

The appeal filed by Advocate on Record Amit Pai states that the principal question before the Apex Court is what would constitute “meaningful and effective consultation” under Section 3(2)(b) of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984. It also poses the question as to whether the non-supply of relevant material to the Chief Justice, i.e. one of the consultees, would be contrary to the principles laid down by the Court.

After Justice (retd) Subhash B Adi retired from the post of Upa Lokayukta, the vacancy was sought to be filled by then Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy in July 2018. Kumaraswamy had written to erstwhile Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari seeking his opinion on who should be appointed as Upa Lokayukta.

On September 14, 2018, the Chief Justice recommended the name of Justice (retd) AN Vengopala Gowda as the Upa Lokayukta. However, the government never proceeded on the consultation. When Justice Maheshwari demitted office, the government sought the opinion of the new Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka in June 2019.

Chief Justice Oka again recommended Justice Gowda's name. However, in November 2019 the government appointed Justice (retd) BS Patil as Upa Lokayukta, even though Chief Justice Oka did not concur with government's decision.

This decision of the state government was challenged before the Karnataka High Court, as relevant materials were not placed before the Chief Justice before the appointment of Upa Lokayukta. It was also argued that "no consultation" took place with the Chief Justice.

The High Court Bench of Justices Ravi Malimath and MI Arun had held in February this year,

"Four out of the five consultees have recommended the name of respondent No.4 [Justice BS Patil]. The recommendation of respondent No.4 was placed before the Hon’ble Chief Justice. The recommendation of Hon’ble Chief Justice was also placed for consideration before the four consultees. Therefore, each one of the consultees were aware of the name of respondent No.4...None of the consultees were kept in the dark of any of the names proposed by any of the consultees. This amounts to an effective consultation."

Karnataka High Court

The appeal before the Supreme Court states,

"There was no effective consultation by the Chief Minister, as mentioned in Section 3(2)(b) of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984, namely, Chief Justice, the Chairperson of the Karnataka Legislative Council, the Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Council and the Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly."

It is further claimed,

"It is submitted that in exercise of the powers of judicial review, the Hon’ble High Court was not called upon to examine whether the Chief Justice was satisfied with the consultation, but whether the absence of material being placed before the Chief Justice, and the non-existence of proper discussion/deliberations between the Chief Minister and the consultees constituted “meaningful and effective consultation” as mandated by Section 3(2)(b) of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984, and as laid down by this Hon’ble Court in the case of Justice Chandrashekaraiah (Retd.)."

Plea filed in Supreme Court

[Read petition]

Samaj Parivarthan v. Govt. of Karnataka - Final SLP.pdf
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[Read order]

Samaj Parivartana Samudaya v. Government of Karnataka.pdf
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