Karnataka can't afford to have a 'headless' Lokayukta
Creation of Anti-Corruption Bureau has led to unrest in the state, particularly among the anti-corruption crusaders.
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A model anti-corruption agency to the rest of the country once-upon-a-time, the Karnataka Lokayukta, which is now headless, is gradually fading into oblivion.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), a newly-formed agency by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government, has easily overtaken the Lokayukta in terms of limelight, but at the same time has shown that it is nowhere near the Lokayukta when it comes to taking on the corrupt.
The creation of the ACB in March this year had led to unrest in Karnataka particularly among the anti-corruption crusaders and the opposition leaders, who described the new agency as a tool of the Congress to undermine the efforts and effectiveness of the Lokayukta.
While the Lokayukta is an autonomous body, the officers of the ACB will report to the Karnataka state chief secretary.Former Karnataka Lokayukta justice Y Bhaskar Rao. (Photo credit: PTI)
Incidentally, the Karnataka Lokayukta, which has brought down the high and mighty, including several ministers and CM in Karnataka, is facing an identity crisis these days.
During its heights under justice Santhosh Hegde, the then BJP chief minister BS Yeddyurappa (May 2008 to July 2011), had to quit along with three of his ministers for their alleged role in the Rs 16,000 plus crore mining scam.
But the same Lokayukta is headless for the past few months after justice Y Bhaskar Rao quit from the post following the alleged involvement of his son in an extortion racket within the anti-corruption agency.
Besides, the government is showing no urgency in appointing a new Lokayukta.
The image of the anti-corruption agency might have taken a hit since the last two years under justice Rao's reign, but that doesn't mean that the Siddaramaiah government can undermine it by creating the ACB.
The government has snatched away the investigation powers of the police under an independent organisation and handed over the same to a different organisation, which will be answerable to the government.
What is exactly wrong with the creation of the ACB? How will it make the Lokayukta toothless?
The Karnataka Lokayukta functions under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984, and under specific provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 through its police wing.
Under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, the Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta can take up cases for inquiry and then hand over them to the judicial officers.
If any government officer is found guilty, then the Lokayukta will write to the department of administrative & personnel reforms (DPAR) recommending disciplinary action against the officer concerned.
To help investigate corruption cases, the state government has deputed policemen to the Lokayukta.
The police wing will investigate cases recommended by the Lokayukta, Upa Lokayukta and on the basis of complaints filed by the general public against specific government servants.
After conducting a preliminary inquiry, the Lokayukta police wing will register an FIR and submit the charge-sheet to a Special Court designated to hear cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
However, to prosecute a government servant when found guilty, the Lokayukta police have to seek the permission of the DPAR.
In a majority of the cases, the DPAR grants the permission on the basis of the investigation report.
However, with the new ACB in place, the suo motu investigation powers of the police in the Lokayukta have been snatched away.
Now, if the ACB receives any complaint from anyone against any government servant, it has to first seek the permission of the DPAR even to commence a probe.
In addition to this, a vigilance advisory board, headed by the state chief secretary, will examine the complaint.
Besides, the government has also created vigilance cells for each department and they will report to the DPAR.
In all, the Lokayukta police can no more take up suo motu investigation against any government official in case of complaints from the public.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)