Criminal threat

The shocking incident of a former prime minister ‘threatening’ the head of the Lokayukta police with ‘dire consequences’ for the investigation taken up against his son in a disproportionate assets case, raises serious issues of impropriety and criminal intimidation.

H D Deve Gowda has subsequently admitted that he did call former Lokayukta Additional Director General of Police Jeevan Kumar Gaonkar over phone and warned him that the probe he was conducting against his son was ‘not fair or impartial,’ though he denied that he had threatened the police officer. But Gaonkar’s letter to the chief secretary makes it clear that Deve Gowda not only accused him of acting like the ‘slave’ of former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa in pursing the investigation, but Gowda’s accused-son Balakrishne Gowda had also telephoned the investigating officer and similarly warned him.

Preceding these incidents, Gowda’s other son H D Kumaraswamy ‘visited’ CID chief Shankar Bidari at his home and reportedly had a heated argument over the inquiry into alleged Rs 340 crore Upper Krishna tendering scam during Deve Gowda’s chief ministership.

While these are serious issues which should be inquired into and appropriate action taken, the Sadananda Gowda-led BJP government has not covered itself in glory by summarily transferring Gaonkar, just two months after he took charge, for its own reasons.

It appears that Sadananda Gowda came under pressure from Yeddyurappa soon after he was released from jail on bail to shift Gaonkar as the law-abiding officer had conducted raids on Yeddyurappa’s sons and son-in-law in connections with the land grabbing cases before the Lokayukta Special Court.

To make matters worse, the government has posted Sathyanarayana Rao in place of Gaonkar, reportedly at the instance of Yeddyurappa, though the officer is facing contempt charges in the high court for alleged repeated failure to execute a warrant against and former minister Janardhana Reddy whose illegal mining operations are being probed by the CBI. An NGO, which has filed cases on illegal mining in the Supreme Court, has threatened to approach the apex court for reinstatement of Gaonkar at the Lokayukta.

These instances of blatant political interference in the Lokayukta’s functioning clearly strengthen the demand of the Anna Hazare movement for an independent Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas at the state level. The UPA government will do well, as it has promised, to give these bodies constitutional status and allow them to function without fear or favour.

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