Corruption sullied Lokayukta image

Corruption sullied Lokayukta image

Anti-graft watchdog itself was embroiled in in-house scams this year

Corruption sullied Lokayukta image

Considered to be one of the best anti-corruption institutions in the country, the Karnataka Lokayukta this year had to face the ignominy of in-house corruption.

As a fallout, retired Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Y Bhaskar Rao had to quit as the Lokayukta immediately after a motion to remove him was admitted in the Legislative Assembly.

Justice Rao’s son Yerabati Ashwin, the kingpin of the extortion and corruption racket within the Lokayukta institution, suspended Joint Commissioner (PRO) Lokayukta Syed Riyaz, and nine other accused who were part of the gang are still behind bars in connection with five cases charge-sheeted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT).

One of the main issues that dented the image of the Lokayukta institution was the gradual disappearance of transparency. There were rumours about complaints being closed without proper enquiry and Justice Rao’s son interfering in the functioning of both the judicial and police wings of the institution.

Since the members of the extortion racket targeted government servants facing cases in the anti-corruption agency, the deals went on unabated. The gang switched its target to an executive engineer at the Zilla Panchayat (Bengaluru Urban) M N Krishnamurthy, who was not facing any enquiry with the Lokayukta, and it proved to be the beginning of the end for the  gang.

Lokayukta (Bengaluru City) Superintendent of Police Sonia Narang’s report seeking further probe into the demand of bribe was discouraged. Even as the Lokayukta police registered an FIR against Ashwin, the State government constituted an SIT as requested by Justice Rao.

The SIT went on to arrest 11 accused and had filed charge sheets in five cases against Ashwin, Riyaz and others. The investigation revealed that the gang had used both the Lokayukta’s office and his official residence to run the racket.

Amendment to Act
Amid these developments, the State government had to face severe criticism for using the situation to further debilitate the institution. The ruling Congress brought in an amendment to the provisions of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act to remove Lokayukta/ Upalokayukta.

However, when the Opposition BJP and JD(S) signed the petition to remove Justice Rao as Lokayukta, the Congress maintained a distance and submitted a separate petition seeking the removal of Upalokayukta Justice Subhash B Adi, a retired High Court judge who has taken up hundreds of cases across the State for maladministration and dereliction of duty.

Justice Adi had to move the High Court to get back to office. Now, the institution has two Upalokayuktas – Justice Adi and Justice N Ananda, while the petition to remove Justice Adi is lying in the Speaker’s office for lack of evidence.

The institution may bounce back when the new Lokayukta is appointed. The coming year seems to be more challenging as people expect a more transparent, proactive and people-friendly Lokayukta institution.

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