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Former Supreme Court judge and former Lokayukta of state of Karnataka Justice NG Venkatachala has passed away at the age of 89.

Born in an agriculturist family Mittur, Justice Venkatachala obtained Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Law degrees from Mysore University. He then got enrolled as an Advocate in the then High Court of Mysore on 16 November 1955. He also served as a part-time reader in Mercantile Law from 1958 to 1970 and a legal adviser to the University of Agricultural Sciences, Hebbal from 1963 to 1973 and Bangalore University from 1970 to 1973.

He served as a Government Pleader and was later promoted to high court government advocate which he served till 1977. He was then appointed as additional judge for Karnataka High Court on 28 November 1977 and a permanent judge on 8 September 1978. He functioned as a tribunal for prevention of unlawful activities under the unlawful activities prevention act during the year 1990. He was appointed as the acting Chief Justice for Karnataka High Court in May, 1992. On 1 July 1992 he was sworn in as Judge of the Supreme Court of India which he remained until Jul2 2, 1995.

Sworn in as the Karnataka Lokayukta on 2 July 2001, Justice Venkatachala was best known for rejuvenating the department of Karnataka Lokayukta, the anti corruption agency. He is said to have put the fear of god in the Karnataka administration. Number of complaints the office of Lokayukta was receiving dramatically increased from 20-25 per day to 200-250 per day while Justice Venkatachala was in tenure.He personally led hundreds of raids often lashing out at corruption in political life. In his four and a half years in office, he had looked into more than 50,000 cases of misconduct and complaints from members of the public. He even drew lot of criticism often from politicians who accused him of tarnishing all politicians with the same brush. He was discontinued as Lokayukta for the second term because of legal hurdles although a huge campaign was done in favor of him. 

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Supreme Court: The bench of Ranjan Gogoi and R. Banumathi, JJ sought explanation from the chief secretaries of 12 States and Union Territories as to why they have not appointed a Lokayukta yet. Section 63 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, states that every state shall establish a body to be known as the Lokayukta.

The Bench was hearing the petition filed by filed by advocate and Delhi BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay in which it was said that the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, received presidential assent on January 1, 2014 and came into force from January 16, 2014 but the executive has not established a Lokpal yet. The PIL has also sought a direction to the states to provide adequate budgetary allocation and essential infrastructure for effective functioning of Lokayuktas. The petitioner, in his petition, had said:

“many State Governments are deliberately weakening the Lokayukta by not providing adequate infrastructure, sufficient budget and workforce.”

The Bench, hence, asked the chief secretaries of Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi and West Bengal to give reasons for not appointing a Lokayukta and to specify by when they would appoint a Lokayukta

The Court has also asked the Chief Secretary of Odisha to apprise the Court about the status of the Lokayukta in State and said the Court has no information whether it has an anti-corruption ombudsman or not.

Source: ANI

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Directing the Union of India to implement the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013, the bench of Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha, JJ held that the Act as it stands today is an eminently workable piece of legislation and there is no justification to keep the enforcement of the Act under suspension till the amendments are carried out.

The Union of India had argued that certain provisions of the Act need to be altered to make the provisions thereof workable in a meaningful manner to which the writ petitioners had responded by saying that the very fact that the Lokpal and Lokayuktas and Other Related Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014 has been gathering dust from the date of its introduction in the Parliament i.e. 18.12.2014 would sufficiently demonstrate the lack of executive/legislative will to give effect to a salutary enactment en-grafting a vital requirement of democratic functioning of the Government, namely, accountability of the political executive and those in high echelons of public office, to an independent body i.e. Lokpal.

The Amendment Bill seeks the following major changes/inclusions in the 2013 Act:

  • Inclusion of Leader of the largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha in the Selection Committee, in lieu of the Leader of Opposition in the present House of People/Lok Sabha(LOP).
  • Limiting the tenure of the eminent jurist, as a Member of the Selection Committee.
  • Absence of any Member of the Selection Committee or a vacancy in the post of any Member will not invalidate the recommendations of the Selection Committee for appointment of the Chairperson or Member of the Lokpal or the appointment of the eminent jurist. Also, appointment of a Member of the Search Committee or the proceedings of the said Committee will not be invalid by reason of either the absence of a Member of the Search Committee or a vacancy in the Selection Committee.

Considering the arguments and the provisions of the Act and the Amendment Bill, the Court said that though it cannot express any opinion on the exercise of the legislative prerogative of seeking changes in the existing law, but the question is whether the Act, as it exists, sans the amendment proposed, is so unworkable that the Court should refuse enforcement. The bench noticed that if, at present, the LOP is not available, surely, the Chairperson and the other two Members of the Selection Committee, namely, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India or his nominee may proceed to appoint an eminent jurist as a Member of the Selection Committee under Section 4(1)(e) of the Act.

The Court also said that though there is no specific provision akin to sub-section (2) of Section 4 of the Act insofar as the constitution of the Search Committee by a truncated Selection Committee is concerned. But the absence of such a provision, by itself, will not invalidate the constitution of the Search Committee by the truncated Selection Committee when the Act specifically “empowers” a truncated Selection Committee to make recommendations for appointment of the Chairperson or Members of the Lokpal. To hold otherwise would be self-contradictory. [Common Cause: A Registered Society v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 486, decided on 27.04.2017]

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the ‘money for change of land use’ scam involving Ram Kishan Fauji where it was alleged that no appeal lies against the order passed by the Single Judge of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in exercise of criminal jurisdiction, the 3-Judge Bench of Dipak Misra, A.M. Khanwilkar and M.M. Shantanagoudar, JJ held that  the Letters Patent Appeal was not maintainable before the Division Bench and, consequently, the order passed therein is wholly unsustainable and, accordingly, it is set aside. The Bench, however, granted liberty to the State to assail the order of the learned Single Judge in accordance with law, as the State had been diligently agitating its grievance in a legal forum which it thought had jurisdiction.

The question for determination before the Court was that whether the learned Single Judge, in the obtaining factual matrix has exercised criminal jurisdiction or not. The Court, hence, noticed that the writ petition was filed under Article 226 of the Constitution for quashing of the recommendation of the Lokayukta. The said recommendation would have led to launching of criminal prosecution, and, as the factual matrix reveals, FIR was registered and criminal investigation was initiated. The learned Single Judge analysed the report and the ultimate recommendation of the statutory authority and thought it seemly to quash the same and after quashing the same, as he found that FIR had been registered, he annulled it treating the same as a natural consequence. Thus, the effort of the writ petitioner was to avoid a criminal investigation and the final order of the writ court is quashment of the registration of FIR and the subsequent investigation.

Stating that the nomenclature of a writ petition is not the governing factor but what is relevant is what is eventually being sought to be enforced, the Court held that in such a situation, to hold that the learned Single Judge, in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, has passed an order in a civil proceeding as the order that was challenged was that of the quasi-judicial authority, that is, the Lokayukta, would be conceptually fallacious.

As per the facts of the case, the Chief Secretary to the Government of Haryana in exercise of power under Section 8(1) of the Haryana Lokayukta Act, 2002 (for brevity, “the Act”) made a reference to the Lokayukta, Haryana to enquire into the allegation of bribery levelled in the alleged Compact Disc (CD) of the sting operation against the appellant are correct and whether Change of Land Use (CLU)/Licence was granted in pursuance of these allegations. The Lokayukta, hence, recommended for registration of FIR for offences punishable under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The appellant, hence, filed a Civil Writ Petition before the High Court, seeking issue of writ in the nature of certiorari for quashing of the said order. [Ram Kishan Fauji v. State of Haryana, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 259, decided on 21.03.2017]

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the petition praying for implementation of the recommendation/report of the Lokayukta Uttar Pradesh, dated 22nd February, 2012, the Court noticed that the law enforcement agencies have moved into action and have collected information and material including with reference to the representations and affidavits received in the course of the said investigation/enquiry.

The report was the outcome of the complaint made by the appellant against Husna Siddiqui, Member of Legislative Council and Naseemuddin Siddiqui, the then Cabinet Minister in U.P for purchasing lands through their income which they earned from unknown sources. The Allahabad High Court, however, refrained from entertaining the writ petition seeking implementation of the report and said that the opinion of the Lokayukta in the report cannot be construed to be final or conclusive as it was a fact finding enquiry and a detailed enquiry is yet to be made after affording opportunity of hearing to the person against whom complaint is made and also that there was no element of public interest in the grievances made by the appellant. The said decision of the High Court was challenged before the Court under Article 136 of the Constitution.

The Counsel appearing for the concerned State Agencies contended that having regard to the voluminous documents and more particularly the need to verify the correctness of the information made available during the investigation/enquiry, it would take some more time to complete the investigation/enquiry in the respective cases. Accepting the said contention, the bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and A.M. Khanwilkar, J expressed a sanguine hope that the State Agencies would complete the investigation/enquiry at the earliest and not later than six months from the date of this order and take the same to its logical end in accordance with law. [Jagdish Narain Shukla v. State of U.P., 2016 SCC OnLine SC 990, decided on 26.09.2016]