New Delhi: The Allahabad High Court on Thursday questioned the Uttar Pradesh government’s treatment of the state Lokayukta in connection with dispute over allotment of a bungalow.
Lokayukta, the statutory watchdog against corruption, the Lokayukta is entitled to the same benefits and facilities as the chief justice of the high court. Accordingly, Lokayukta Justice Sanjay Misra was allotted a Type-VI bungalow in January 2016.
But the BJP government had on December 3 last year issued a notification downgrading the Lokayukta’s residence from Type-VI to Type-V, brushing aside the opinion of the state advocate general who said this would not be legally justifiable, said a report in Times of India.
After the Lokayukta challenged the move, the Yogi Adityanath government told the high court that Lokayukta is at par with retired bureaucrats who head statutory commissions in the state.
The high court expressed strong disapproval of the manner in which the UP government attempted to equate Lokayukta with retired bureaucrats, saying: “While the opinion of the advocate general may not be binding upon the government as a general rule or principle in every case, it does not mean that it should be discarded or mere whims and or personal predilections contrary to the irrefutable legal position and if it is so done without any legal justification, as in this case, then the bona fides of the decision impugned becomes questionable,” it said.
The court also questioned the state government’s rationale behind downgrading the Lokayukta’s bungalow entitlement from Type VI to Type V. “Is it because of the sensitive nature of the duties performed by the Lokayukta? Is it an attempt to belittle and humiliate the incumbent of the august office? Does it behove the state government to treat the Lokayukta in such a casual and irresponsible manner?” the HC asked, striking down the state government’s December 3, 2017, order downgrading Lokayukta’s residential entitlement.
In October, a plea was filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the UP government to amend the law to bring the office of Chief Minister under the purview of state ombudsman, Lokayukta.
The plea said that the existing status of the 'Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta Act, 1975' does not make the ombudsman "powerful enough to serve the purpose and object for which it was enacted".
"The Lokayukta of the state of Uttar Pradesh is not competent to proceed against the Chief Minister for any corrupt action in which he has been found guilty of favouritism, nepotism or lack of integrity therefore there is need to bring the Chief Minister under the purview of Lokayukta for proceeding against him for his corruption," it said.
The plea also sought direction to bring under the ambit of Lokayukta law the institutions like state and deemed universities and private institutes, committees, boards, commission, established under the state laws.