‘Corrupt’ politicians in Karnataka fear Lokayukta more than anywhere else

Justice Santosh Hegde and BS Yeddyurappa

In Karnataka, there’s one thing the politicians fear more than anything else and that’s the Lokayukta.

And their fear is not without a reason.

Former chief minister B. S. Yeddyurappa, his cabinet colleagues Katta Subrahmanya Naidu and Es. En. Krishnaiah Setty, the Bellary mine lord Janardhana Reddy and his aide B. Sriramulu, all of them had to bow to the power of the Lokayukta and the probes it had launched against them.

These apart, former chief ministers N. Dharam Singh and H. D. Kumaraswamy are still under the Lokayukta radar as are incumbent Jagadish Shettar and ministers V. Somanna, Murugesh Nirani and R. Ashoka.

So what makes the Karnataka Lokayukta unique when compared to its counterparts in other states? There are two factors that seem to be working in favour of the Karnataka Lokayukta – an active police wing and the number of complaints being filed in the special court, set up to hear the cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

While the Lokayukta is taking up cases suo motu against the politicians, the special court is handing over important cases to the anti-corruption body for investigation. The Rs.16,000 crore mining scandal report prepared by former Lokayukta Santosh Hegde saw the exit of Yeddyurappa, the Reddys and Sriramulu from the government.

Then again, a powerful BJP MLA – Y. Sampangi – was trapped by the police while accepting bribe from a contractor.

The evidence against him was so strong that Sampangi was convicted by the special court and he is now languishing in jail.

Besides, the Lokayukta also raided the residences of Congress and BJP MLAs in disproportionate assets cases. All these cases are being heard by various courts and in many others, the Lokayukta has filed chargesheet.

Between 2008 and 2011, when Yeddyurappa was the chief minister, 13 ministers were being probed by the Lokayukta. Most of the cases relate to the denotification of land in violation of government rules.

It is not just the politicians, the Lokayukta has been equally effective against the bureaucrats.

A number of IAS, IPS and Karnataka government cadre officers were booked for amassing wealth disproportionate to their income, while hundreds of them were caught accepting bribes.

“The advantage that the Lokayukta had was upright and honest police officers on its rolls. Unlike in other states, Karnataka ensures that police officers with high integrity are posted to the Lokayukta. Of course, there have been the occasional black sheep. But a majority of the police officers in Lokayukta have won accolades for their work,” a senior police officer pointed out.

However, in the past few months, the anti-corruption body has become weak in the absence of a Lokayukta. Moreover, a number of police officers have been transferred, adding to the problem.

Ever since Justice Shivaraj Patil quit as the Lokayukta last year under controversial circumstances, the BJP government has not appointed anyone in his place. This has led to allegation from the Opposition that the ruling party has been trying to stall the probes against its members by not appointing a Lokayukta.

The dilly dallying in appointing a Lokayukta has not gone down well with the Karnataka High Court as well, which has hauled up the state government over the issue.

The court also observed that it may be forced to recommend to the governor that there was a failure of the constitutional framework in view of the Lokayukta remaining headless for the past 10 months.

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