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The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has stayed appointment of two non-judicial members appointed to the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta.
In an interim order passed on Friday, the Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and SS Sundar stayed the appointment of retired IAS officer M Rajaram and Advocate K Arumugam. The Court was dealing with a petition which contended that their appointment would violate Article 319 of the Constitution and Section 3 of the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta Act, 2018.
With reference to the appointment of M Rajaram, the petitioner highlighted Article 319, which provides that members of State Public Service Commissions are disqualified from holding any government post except that of a member of the Union Public Service Commission. While this is the case, Rajaram has served as a member of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission.
As for the appointment of Advocate Arumugam, the Court was informed that he served as the Secretary of AIADMK political party’s Advocates’ Wing at Coimbatore. However, Clause (4) (f) of Section 3 of the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta Act disqualifies persons having political connections from being appointed to the Lokayukta.
In view of these submissions, Senior Advocate Amjad Khan had argued that both Rajaram and Arumugam were not qualified to be appointed as non-judicial members of the Lokayukta. Appearing for the state, Special Government Pleader AK Baskarapandian countered that the challenge was premature and that the appointment can only be stayed after the members take charge.
The Court, however, disagreed, stating,
“Once it is brought to the notice of this Court that the very appointment of the members is illegal and contrary to law, the appointment of respondents 2 and 3 [Rajaram and Arumugam] is liable to be stayed.“
It, therefore, proceeded to stay the appointment of Rajaram and Arumugam.
“There should not be any violation or allegation against the persons to be appointed as members of a very important forum like Lok Ayukta. Accordingly, the impugned Government Order insofar as it relates to the appointment of respondents 2 and 3 is stayed.“
The Court also clarified that its order would not hinder the functioning of the Lokayukta with the remaining members. As stated in the order,
“… this Court stays only the appointment of two members and therefore, there is no prohibition for the Lok Ayukta to start functioning with Chairman and other members.“
After issuing notice in the matter, the Court has posted the case to be taken up next on April 22.
The state government had recently constituted the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta, with retired High Court judge, P Devadass heading the body as its Chairman. Apart from Rajaram and Arumugam, whose appointment has now been stayed, district judges K Jayabalan and R Krishnamoorthy were appointed as the judicial members of the Lokayukta.