Lokayukta indicts BSY govt, quits
Justice Santosh Hegde indicates, with instances, that corruption is all pervasive
The country’s battle against pervasive corruption and maladministration in government suffered a huge blow as Justice N Santosh Hegde quit as Karnataka Lokayukta on Wednesday, citing helplessness to deliver justice in the face of government non-cooperation.
But just after he tendered his resignation to Governor H R Bhardwaj here on Wednesday evening, Justice Hegde went public with a bare-all, tell-all account of the circumstances that prompted him to give up the losing battle.
The B S Yeddyurappa government couldn’t have asked for anything worse just a day before it celebrates the completion of two years in office with a public meeting in the capital.
The Lokayukta delivered a stinging indictment of the government during a 90-minute-long press conference following the resignation that will come into effect on August 31.
Justice Hegde said the government had been totally non-cooperative with the Lokayukta, be it in its campaign against corruption, maladministration or to deliver justice to scores of aggrieved citizens from across the state.
For the last six months, Justice Hegde said he had repeatedly requested the government to appoint a Upa Lokayukta. It was important to fill the vacancy since complaints had piled up in thousands which only the Upa Lokayukta could address under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, he said. However, the government was totally indifferent to the request, he charged. But more damaging was Justice Hedge’s charge that the government had defeated the Lokayukta’s campaign against corrupt officials. The Lokayukta’s recommendations to the government to proceed against corrupt officials had fallen on deaf ears. Scores of bureaucrats caught in cases of corruption were suspended but soon thereafter they were reinstated, sometimes in the same post, he said.
He cited the cases of BESCOM and BBMP officials who were reinstated after suspension. “On many occasions, the officials who had been trapped/raided were reinstated and posted in the same place. Isn’t it a slap on my face and on the Lokayukta office,” asked Hegde.
Justice Hegde went into some details about the iron ore disappearance scam in Karwar. Indicting both state and Union governments, he dropped enough hints that the iron ore seized in Karwar, that subsequently “disappeared”, might have been shipped out.
He suspected a failed conspiracy to attribute the disappearance to monsoon.
Worse, he said, the official who was instrumental in seizing the unaccounted iron ore in Karwar at Lokayukta’s behest, was subsequently suspended by the government on the flimsy ground of dereliction of duty during a cabinet minister’s visit to the district.
The reference was to Karwar DCF R Gokul who along with the Lokayukta had seized iron ore worth crores of rupees from Karwar and Belakeri ports.
The suspended official, Justice Hegde said, had approached him for help. But he was powerless and unable to do anything. “I feel helpless and useless…. I cannot be in a chair where I cannot protect my officer,” he said.
Going further, he said he was not even been able to protect his colleagues in the Lokayuka from harassment at the hands of the government. “My officers have been suffering and they have faced many threats and have been charged with SC/ST atrocity cases,” he said.
Seemingly frustrated with the situation, Justice Hegde said he was “quite disturbed for the last three-and-a-half months and had sleepless nights; when I am not able to give justice to my subordinates, there is no point in continuing in the chair. So this decision…”
Justice Hegde, who was appointed Lokayukta on August 3, 2006, said he had once approached the then governor, T N Chaturvedi, and wanted to resign, “but changed my mind after he advised me to continue and fight the battle. This time, I have given enough time and it is not an emotional or an on the spur of the moment decision. At least now, let the government rectify its mistakes and save the institution by giving enough powers,” he said.