A fine example

A fine example

Justice Shivaraj Patil has set a good example by resigning his position as the Karnataka Lokayukta in the wake of a controversy over irregular allotment of two residential plots to him and his wife.

He has denied any illegality and violation of rules in the allotment of the sites and has said that he decided to quit because the malicious campaign against him had created an uncongenial atmosphere in which he thought it was not appropriate for him to continue in his position.

The dividing line between illegality and impropriety is very thin, especially in the case of the conduct of those holding high offices. Even an act of questionable correctness would lower the credibility of the office and cast doubts about the integrity of the person who holds it. The Lokayukta has to scrutinise and sit in judgment over the conduct and actions of others and should have a bar higher than those for others.

While Justice Patil had a plot and house in Bangalore, he was subsequently allotted a plot in the Judicial Employees’ House-building Society layout and his wife got a site from another house-building society. The contention is that the rules of allotment of sites from co-operative societies were violated when he and his wife got sites because he already had a house in Bangalore.

Apparently there was a violation of rules, though such violations are common.  The allotment of the site in the judicial employees’ society was upheld by courts, including the Supreme Court. But the controversy is not all about legality. Justice Patil has explained that his wife got the site through an outright sale deed. She also returned the site that she got after the matter came out into the open. Even this is not enough to undo the original wrong.

Beyond the explanations, justifications and legalities there is, at the very least, an issue of propriety involved in the issues that came up in the public realm. Justice Patil has not accepted any wrong-doing on his part but his resignation has perhaps set the standards higher for the office that he held for a short while. His predecessors had maintained them and  he too deserves credit for leaving the office of the Lokayukta stronger by relinquishing it in the face of doubts about his conduct. 

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