Where's Lokayukta?

Where's Lokayukta?

Whatever the setback suffered by Team Anna in its campaign against corruption, the momentum given by that agitation last year is taking the country towards more transparency and accountability in administration.

The Parliament may have stumbled during the last winter session when it failed to fulfill its commitment to pass a ‘strong’ Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, but the overall debate in the country has crystalised towards having a credible anti corruption body and it simply cannot be postponed indefinitely.

Already, many state governments have introduced strict guidelines for the bureaucracy to deliver public services within the stipulated time with penalty clauses to punish those who do not do so, and it will go some way in fighting corruption. Others like Bihar have introduced an effective Lokayukta, which should inspire those states which are still lagging behind.

Karnataka, which was a pioneer in setting up the institution of Lokayukta and until recently, with Justice Santosh Hegde at the helm, was a model to other states, has unfortunately slipped back in its fight against corruption ever since Justice Hegde’s retirement on August 2 last year. Justice Shivraj Patil, who took over briefly, had to resign within two months after he came under a cloud regarding some land transactions.

It was the duty of the BJP government led by chief minister Sadananda Gowda to quickly find a suitable alternative, but it has been dragging its feet for some inexplicable reasons. Without consulting the leaders of the Opposition in the Assembly and the Council, as is customary, the chief minister forwarded the name of Justice S R Bannurmatt for the post to the governor, which has led to a huge controversy and remains unresolved for over two months.

From all accounts, Justice Bannurmatt suffers from the same infirmity which forced Justice Patil to quit and governor H R Bhardwaj has rightly refused to ratify the nomination. The way the office of Lokayukta is functioning ever since Justice Hegde left, gives room for suspicion that the state government is hell-bent on shielding powerful politicians of all parties facing various criminal charges rather than fighting corruption.

The Sadananda Gowda government can remove such misgivings only by appointing a Lokayukta with clean image and without wasting any more time. There is no dearth of retired judges with unimpeachable record who can be approached to take up the job.

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