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HC comes under fire from SC

Top court resents suo moto verdict on Lokayukta, human rights panel

From CK Nayak

New Delhi: The High Court of Meghalaya which has been in the news of late for several ‘controversial’ judgments was slammed by the Supreme Court with the apex court ruling that the former cannot exercise suo moto jurisdiction on the Lokayukta and the State Human Rights Commission and stay the operation of a statutory provision unless a person aggrieved has assailed such a provision.
A two judge bench of the apex court criticized the High Court of Meghalaya for taking suo moto cognizance in the matter of ‘appointment of State Lokayukta and failure to constitute Meghalaya State Human Rights Commission’. The Bench also set aside the direction pertaining to the stay of the provisions of the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2014.
It is also held that the State Human Rights Commission shall become functional by end of June, 2016. The division bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh delivered this judgment in an appeal against an order passed by the High Court of Meghalaya.
By an order dated December 14, 2015, a division bench of the High Court comprising Justice Uma Nath
Singh and T Nandakumar Singh had referred to clause (a) of sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the
Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2014 which provides for appointment of a non-judicial member as Chairperson of State Lokayukta. It then proceeded to stay the said provision and also passed some directions regarding appointment of Chairperson and members to the Meghalaya State Human Rights Commission.
The State government counsel Ranjan Mukherjee appeared on behalf of the Meghalaya government. He proceeded to challenge the direction issued with respect to the Lokayukta Act in the Supreme Court.
The apex court bench held that suo moto public interest litigation can be initiated to ameliorate the conditions of a class of persons whose constitutional or otherwise lawful rights are affected or not adequately looked into.
“The Court has adopted the said tool so that persons in disadvantaged situation because of certain reasons – social, economic or socio-economic – are in a position to have access to the Court. The Court appoints Amicus Curiae to assist the Court and also expects the executive to respond keeping in view the laudable exercise,” the bench observed.
The bench also noted that in the instant case the High Court has compared the provisions pertaining to appointment of Chairperson and members under the Act with the provisions of other Acts enacted by different legislatures.
The legislature has passed the legislation in its wisdom and there was no challenge to the constitutional validity of the provisions of the Act. The suo moto petition was registered for giving effect to the Act by bringing the institutions into existence, the bench said.
This may be thought of in very rare circumstances depending on the nature of legislation and the collective benefit but in that arena also the Court cannot raise the issue relating to any particular provision and seek explanation in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution.
According to the Supreme Court, “Division Bench of the High Court has, with an erroneous understanding of fundamental principle of law, scanned the anatomy of the provision and passed an order in relation to it as if it is obnoxious or falls foul of any constitutional provision which is clearly impermissible, the bench said.
A person aggrieved or with expanded concept of locus standi some one could have assailed the provisions. But in that event there are certain requirements and need for certain compliance.
Explaining the legal position as above the Supreme Court held that, the High Court could not have proceeded as if it was testing the validity of the provision and granted stay. “The approach is totally fallacious and having opined aforesaid, we have no option but to set aside that part of the order which deals with the provisions of the Act.”
“We do not intend to express any opinion with regard to validity of any provision contained in the Act.
We also do not think it condign to direct that the establishment under the said Act should become operational within any fixed time,” it said.
Suffice to say at present that when the State Legislature has introduced the legislation to take steps as regards the institution, it shall be the endeavour of the executive to see that the office of the Lokayukta is in place. We say no more for the present,” said the Bench.

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