“Sheer fraud on power”: PIL in Karnataka HC challenges appointment of Justice BS Patil as Upa Lokayukta

“Sheer fraud on power”: PIL in Karnataka HC challenges appointment of Justice BS Patil as Upa Lokayukta

Rintu Mariam Biju

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Karnataka High Court challenging the recent appointment of  Justice (Retd.) BS Patil as Karnataka Upa Lokayukta.

The order issued by the state’s Governor on November 20 appointing Justice Patil as Upa Lokayukta has been assailed as ultra vires the provisions of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act.

The petition points out discrepancies in the consultative process that is mandatory under the Act. As per the Act, the Governor of the state shall appoint the Upa Lokayukta on the advice tendered by the Chief Minister in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Chairman of the Karnataka Legislative Council, the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, the Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Council, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.

It is alleged that Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa committed an error in not consulting the Chief Justice of the High Court for the appointment of Justice BS Patil as Upa Lokayukta. The petitioner relies on correspondence between the Chief Minister and the Chief Justice to stake these claims.

On July 24 last year, then Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy had addressed a letter to former Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari asking him to suggest eligible persons for the office of Upa Lokayukta. In response, the Chief Justice had suggested the name of former Karnataka High Court judge Justice AN Venugopalagouda as the most suitable candidate for the office.

In the meanwhile, Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka took charge as Karnataka Chief Justice in May 2019. On June 20 this year, the Chief Minister asked the new Chief Justice for his recommendation. In a letter dated June 22, Justice Oka reiterated his predecessor’s pick and recommended Justice Venugopalagouda for appointment as Upa Lokayukta.

After a change in the state government, Chief Minister Yeddyurappa addressed a letter to Chief Justice Oka on November 12 this year,  informing him that after consulting the other four authorities, it was decided that Justice Patil would be recommended as Upa Lokayukta.

Stating that the lack of consultation with the Chief Justice smacks of utter disregard for the rule of law and sheer fraud on power, the petition states,

“When the name of Shri. A.N. Venugopala Gowda, Judge (Rtd) was replaced by the 4th respondent [Justice Patil], there was no consultation whatsoever let along simultaneous or individual consultation. As a matter of fact, the State Government demonstrates its audacity in saying that the Chief Justice recommended one person and that the same was brought to the notice of the other consultees and that all four consultees have chosen the 4th respondent…

…The letter makes it clear that the file pertaining to the 4th respondent was not placed before the Chief Justice for consolation let alone meaningful consultation as declared by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

It is further pointed out that Chief Justice Oka had written a letter to the Chief Minister on November 14 stating that there was no material placed before him by the state government “warranting change of the recommendation earlier made” by the Chief Justice and his predecessor.

Regardless of Chief Justice Oka’s reservations, the Governor went on to issue the order appointing Justice Patil as Upa Lokayukta.

Based on the facts, the petitioner has sought an order declaring that Justice Patil has no authority to hold the public office of the Karnataka Upa Lokayukta. The quashing of the appointment order passed by the Governor has also been sought.

The petitioner has been filed by Samaj Parivathana Samudaya (SPS), a voluntary organisation working in Karnataka. Advocate S Basavaraj will appear on behalf of the petitioner.

The matter is likely to come up for hearing tomorrow.

[Read petition here]

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