SC notice on Nagaland Lokayukta

NEW DELHI, AUG 21 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 8/21/2020 1:11:41 PM IST

Govt seeks cessation of state Lokayukta’s powers & functions

In a major development, the state government has approached the Supreme Court to arbitrate on the actions of its own Lokayukta, Justice Umna Nath Singh, who it claimed to have made several “arbitrary demands”.

Supreme Court Friday agreed to hear a plea filed by Nagaland government which has raised questions over the functioning of Lokayukta in the state. 

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued notice after Advocate General for the State KN Balgopal made submissions on behalf of the state. Issue notice returnable two weeks, the court stated in its order.

As reported by Bar and Bench- a news protal, the Supreme Court sought Nagaland Lokayukta’s response in state government plea calling for cessation of his powers and functions.

The petition also prayed for the Court to direct the Lokayukta to assign all the pending matters before him to the Upa-Lokayuktas. This was in addition to a prayer seeking an order to prohibit the Lokayukta from exercising his powers and functions as per the Nagaland Lokayukta Act of 2017.

The state government claimed that since April 2019, the Lokayukta had fallen short of the standards that were expected from a person holding his position. Moreover, his unreasonable demands and “capricious behaviour” made it untenable for him to continue in the post, it is averred.

Lokayukta Justice Uma Nath Singh, who is former Chief Justice of the Meghalaya High Court, also made a request to the chief secretary of the state government for relaxation of Section 4(2)(c) of the Nagaland Lokayukta Act in order to facilitate his engagement as an arbitrator in an arbitration matter. The provision makes it impermissible for the Lokayukta to hold any other office, the plea explained.

Elaborating on other “arbitrary demands” made by Singh, the petition stated that not only did he sought permission to function online from Delhi, but also made a request before the chief secretary for accommodation, among other things. 

The petition stated that the Lokayukta was personally informed that the requests could not be acceded to, considering that the same would require amendment to the statute. Subsequently, a communication dated June 6, 2019, purportedly sent from the office of the chief secretary, came to light, which claimed that the chief secretary approved of these demands, even though he did not have knowledge of the same. 

The June 6 letter was later withdrawn owing to the chief secretary’s lack of knowledge of the communication being made. It was also proposed that an inquiry be made into how the “misleading letter” was sent. The Lokayukta then “started showing his ire”, the petition said, by issuing notices to various honest officials.

Justice Singh’s unreasonable requests also included a demand for the presence of the Commissioner of Police at Dimapur airport at the time of his arrival and/or departure every time, which is in clear deviation from the security protocol and the Y plus security detail accorded to the Lokayukta, the petition stated.

Meanwhile, in a press note, Advocate General Nagaland, KN Balgopal said the Lokayukta had made request for being allotted the chief minister’s former bungalow which was converted into a V.I.P guest house. He also insisted upon writing to the authorities for avoiding frisking at the airport which was also not allowed. Balgopal said that the Lokayukta, in a complaint case, directed the chief minister to conduct an enquiry against the deputy chief minister and to file a report in his court overlooking the fact that the chief minister was not an investigating authority.

In yet another case, Balgopal claimed that the Lokaykta had alleged that the Law department was a danger to the government because some officer of the Law department in an internal note questioned his authority in interfering with service matters of an employee retired in 2009, adding the list was endless. 

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