The Supreme Court Monday face a unique issue, where the Lokayukta of Nagaland sought to discharge his duties in the northeastern state from Delhi.
“We have never seen pleadings like this, you are demeaning the office,” a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justice A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian told counsel for appearing for the Lokayukta, former Meghalaya High Court Chief Justice Uma Nath Singh.
The Chief Justice said the Lokayuktas do not have to serve like this. “You are saying things and the government is saying things… there better be some dignity,” he said.
The observation by the bench after the counsel for state government claiming that the Lokayukta was “not discharging his work diligently” and cited that he wants to work from Delhi. “He wanted to shift office to Delhi… he says it is difficult to commute 5 km terrain in Nagaland from his home. He is a non-performing Lokayukta. He has no interest in work,” it contended.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, representing the Lokayukta, submitted that the state government wants to remove him but there is a procedure which has to be followed.
At this, the bench said: “We don’t agree with you. We don’t understand this. How can a person be a Lokayukta while sitting in Delhi just because this is a pandemic time?
In August, the Nagaland government had moved the Supreme Court seeking removal of the Lokayukta for acts of impropriety.
The bench noted that the Lokayukta has himself said the top court should replace him with a former judge of this court.
As counsel said: “I have not advised him like this. I am appearing for the first time and it might be due to some frustration”, the bench, in its order, said: “At the request of Vikas Singh, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the respondent(s), list the matter after one week to enable him to take instructions in the matter.”
The plea said the Lokayukta insisted at functioning online from Delhi by making a representation to the Chief Secretary in May 2019, citing that his house is far away from the office, the terrain is hilly, and he has his library in Delhi and for security reasons. A letter dated June 6, 2019 was engineered from the department permitting him to function from Delhi.
“Later when the Chief Secretary learned that one such letter was issued purportedly on his approval though he was not aware of the same, immediately thereafter a letter was issued to the Lokayukta stating that the earlier letter issued by the department did not have the approval of the Chief Secretary, and therefore, the same stands withdrawn and the government intends to conduct an inquiry in the matter,” Nagaland Advocate General K.N. Balgopal said in a statement.