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SC objects to Meghalaya high court verdict on state Lokayukta law

Supreme Court on Friday came down heavily on a Meghalaya high court verdict, staying certain provisions of the eligibility criteria for state Lokayukta after taking suo motu cognizance of the matter, saying it was a “sad, sad scenario” which is “impermissible and unacceptable” in law.

A Bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra partly set aside the High Court order pertaining to the stay of some provisions of the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2014. However, it concurred with the High Court’s direction on the issue of setting up of the State Human Rights Commission and asked the Meghalaya government to make the panel functional by end of June this year.

The Bench termed as “clearly impermissible” the suo motu cognizance taken by the High Court on the issue pertaining to the appointment of Lokayukta and constitutional validity of certain provisions of the Lokayukta Act.

Quoting several cases and writings, the Bench said, “The necessity has arisen again for reiteration of the fundamental principle to be adhered to by a Judge. It is because the order impugned herein presents a sad, sad scenario, definitely and absolutely an impermissible and unacceptable one.” 

The Apex Court said the High Court, with an “erroneous understanding of fundamental principle of law”, scanned the legal provisions which is “clearly impermissible”.

“Be it noted, the constitutional courts can entertain letter petitions and deal with them as writ petitions. But it will depend on the nature of the issue sought to be advanced. There cannot be uncontrolled or unguided exercise of epistolary jurisdiction. In the instant case, as is evident, the High Court has compared the provisions pertaining to the appointment of Chairperson and Members under the Act with provisions of other Acts enacted by different legislatures,” it said.

Observing that the legislature had passed the law “in its wisdom”, it said there was no challenge to the constitutional validity of the provisions of the Act. 
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