Assembly clears bill allowing Lokayukta to recuse

Karnataka Assembly clears bill allowing Lokayukta to recuse from case

Former Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar speaks at the Assembly session in Vidhana Soudha, Bengaluru, on Tuesday.

The Legislative Assembly on Tuesday passed a Bill that allows the Lokayukta to recuse from hearing or dealing any case or complaint and hand it over to any of the Upa Lokayuktas. 

During the passage of the Bill, the Opposition came down heavily on the government over the present status of the anti-corruption watchdog. Justice P Vishwanath Shetty is the current Lokayukta with Justices N Ananda and B S Patil are Upa Lokayuktas. 

“The Bill seeks to make a provision for the Lokayukta to refer or transfer any cases or complaints or matters etc to anyone of the Upa Lokayuktas, if he feels disabled to hear or consider or in any manner deal with such cases,” Law Minister J C Madhuswamy said. 

The amendment has its roots in the infamous case involving an extortion racket within the Lokayukta that rocked the state in 2015. 

Former Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar was not impressed with the Bill. “We had a State Vigilance Commission, which was replaced by the Lokayukta when Ramakrishna Hegde was the CM. Is the Lokayukta benefitting at all? Has it served the purpose for which it was created? Why have something just for decoration?” Kumar said, urging the government to come up with a “comprehensive legislation” to tackle corruption. 

The Lokayukta, in its present form, has become toothless, Kumar said. “Those in the All India services, especially in the Forest department, are involved in rampant looting. The corrupt are roaming free whereas the non-corrupt are having to hide.” 

The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government created the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) and this was seen as an attempt at weakening the Lokayukta. “Those who were trapped (by Lokayukta) became more prominent. On top of this, we brought ACB. They contradicted each other,” Kumar said. JD(S) member Shivalinge Gowda said there was no respect for the Lokayukta anymore. “Those working under Lokayukta are the same sub-inspectors. Unless a separate cadre is created, I’m not sure it’ll have the same sanctity,” he said.

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