Lokayukta office closes doors to media

Lokayukta office closes doors to media

ADGP tells police officials they will be repatriated if they speak to the press

Beginning Tuesday, presspersons were refused entry into the Lokayukta office, except to meet the ADGP himself, who refused to speak to the media.

In fact, mediapersons cannot even meet the deputy commissioner of the Lokayukta, Syed Riyaz, who also doubles as the Public Relations Officer (PRO). Incidentally, the PRO was unaware of the ADGP passing such orders.

Controversy has dogged Rao ever since he was transferred as ADGP to Lokayukta last month, as he is one of the officers pulled up by the High Court for the non execution of warrant issued by the Judicial Magistrate First Court (JMFC), Sandur, in the case of the demolition of the Sugalamma Devi temple against former minister Janardhana Reddy.

The High Court had taken objection to Rao’s inaction in the face of nine warrants issued against Reddy, when Rao was the IGP of Eastern Range, based in Davangere.

There has been immense pressure on the ombudsman, ever since the Lokayukta police started investigating cases involving ministers and MLAs, following complaints filed in the Lokayukta Court. It may be recalled that then ADGP Gaonkar, who was in charge of several high profile cases, was shunted out and replaced by Rao, just 48 hours after former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa was released from jail.

Officials in the Lokayukta said Rao had made it clear to the police officials as soon as he took over, that they had no right to talk to the press and if found guilty, they would be repatriated. They were warned not to discuss the cases even with their own colleagues. An official described the working environment as “growing very uncomfortable”, while another said it had become “demoralising.”

Rao is said to have used a recent report that appeared in a section of the media about Yeddyurappa as a pretext to deny entry to presspersons, on the grounds that information about investigations was being leaked. However, it is an open secret that mobile phones, landline phones of the staff, especially the police officers, are being tapped. But, Rao seems to have taken no steps to deal with it.

Upa Lokayukta S B Majage refused to talk to the media, but sent a message through his secretary that he had not given any orders to bar the media from entering the building.

Former Lokayukta Santosh Hegde said: “When the media can be allowed inside the Legislature, why can’t they be allowed inside the building? They can restrict timings for the visit, if they wish, but the media is also part of the system and they cannot be denied access.” Hegde said transparency applied to the Lokayukta organisation as well and the move to restrict access was sad.

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