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Why is Karnataka Congress gunning for the Upalokayukta

Ramakrishna Upadhya | Updated on: 28 November 2015, 18:44 IST
QUICK PILL

Lokayukta mess

  • Karnataka Lokayukta Y Bhaskar Rao\'s son Ashwin charged with blackmailing
  • Rao is almost certain to be removed; BJP, JD (S) both petitioned against him

Congress stand

  • Some Cong MLAs, on the other hand, seeks the removal of Upalokayukta Adi
  • Allegation: Adi tried to protect someone close to ex-CM Jagadish Shettar

More in the story

  • Why does Congress want Adi to go
  • What does the legal fraternity say

The countdown for the removal of Karnataka's scandal-ridden Lokayukta Justice Y Bhaskar Rao has begun. But the Siddaramaiah government appears determined to make his departure as muddled as possible.

Opposition legislators of both the Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal (Secular) have submitted motions to the Speaker of the Assembly and the chairman of the Legislative Council. The motions have been accepted.

The Congress, however, hasn't supported the resolutions. In a new twist, the ruling party has sought the simultaneous removal of Upalokayukta Justice Subhash B Adi, accusing him of 'helping' the relative of a BJP leader.

Read- From crusaders to scamsters: what corrupted the Karnataka Lokayukta

Some Congress legislators have openly expressed unhappiness at the party not supporting the resolution for Justice Rao's removal. According to them, it would send out a wrong signal. The party pacified them with the assurance that it would take a clear stand during the discussion in the Houses.

Justice Rao's son Ashwin is in judicial custody on charges of blackmailing. Thirteen charge-sheets have been filed against a racket.

Within hours of the motion against Justice Rao being accepted, 78 Congress legislators submitted another petition against the deputy Lokayukta to the Speaker, accusing him of "overstepping his jurisdiction and shielding a corrupt doctor." They want Justice Adi removed along with Justice Rao.

The government doctor in case is Sheela Patil. Upalokyaukta-2 Justice SB Majage, who has since retired, had ordered an inquiry against Dr Patil, based on an anonymous complaint that she had misused free government medicine.

Some Cong MLAs think seeking Adi's removal will send wrong signals

The vigilance director of the Lokayukta conducted an inquiry and reported that the allegations were baseless.

Seemingly, the report reached Justice Adi, not Justice Majage, and he forwarded the report to the government and the matter was closed.

Dr Patil is related to BJP leader Jagadish Shettar and Justice Adi was appointed Upalokayukta when Shettar was the chief minister.

Justice Adi said Justice Majage instituted an internal inquiry to find out how the report reached him and it was "proved" Justice Majage's staff had forwarded it to him.

"By simply forwarding the report (to the government) I have not committed any crime. Let them produce one instance of my involvement in corruption. I will resign...This situation is created only to destabilise this institution (Lokayukta). I will not let this institution perish as long as I am here," said Justice Adi.

According to him, he was being targeted for ordering an investigation into corruption within the Lokayukta, which led to Ashwin's racket being busted. Both Justice Rao and Justice Majage were unhappy with this.

Also read: Karnataka govt trying to get netas into private clubs at gunpoint

The ruling Congress, on the other hand, claims Justice Adi was "inefficient" and "incompetent" and had to go.

A senior Congress leader who did not wish to be identified said: "We want to clean up the institution and bring in a comprehensive legislation on the lines of UPA's Lokpal Bill to strengthen the anti-corruption watchdog."

But several observers don't buy that.

The ruling party would rather like the Lokayukta being shut down than allow Justice Adi become the interim Lokayukta after Justice Rao. They fear that if he take hold of the administration, he would reopen many corruption cases now dormant.

The Siddaramaiah government had enjoyed a good "rapport" with Justice Rao as he had stalled inquiries into complaints against the chief minister and several other ministers.

He had dismissed a complaint against Siddaramaiah for the denotification of 3 acres of land. A detailed inquiry into a much bigger scandal of the denotification of around 800 acres in Arkavathy Layout was yet to begin.

There are illegal iron ore mining cases pending against Energy Minister DK Shivakumar, sand mining cases against Cooperation Minister Mahadeva Prasad and land grabbing cases against Industries Minister RV Deshpande, which have made little or no progress. In the absence of the cases being resolved, they remain as ministers in the Cabinet.

Adi thinks he is being targeted for probing corruption within Lokayukta

The government's move for the removal of Justice Adi has received flak from several senior advocates of the Karnataka High Court. On Thursday, 13 senior counsels, including two former advocate generals, BV Acharya and Uday Holla, dashed off a letter to Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa urging him to desist from initiating proceedings for Justice Adi's removal.

They said Justice Adi had an unblemished record and was one of the best judges of the Karnataka High Court. "Justice Adi has held the office (of Upalokayukta) with dignity and has conducted himself in an impeccable manner. It is unfortunate that baseless allegations are being leveled against him," they said.

The senior counsels said allegation against Justice Adi couldn't be compared with that of Justice Rao, as criminal proceedings had been initiated against his son and others for corruption. According to them the attempt in the legislature seems to be timed to prevent Justice Adi from discharging the functions and exercising the powers of the Lokayukta.

Luckily, the process of the removal of Lokayukta or the Upalokayukta is not entirely in the hands of politicians. The Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court has a crucial role to play.

The Speaker is expected to send a report next week to the Chief Justice regarding the resolutions received and request him to conduct an inquiry. The Chief Justice can then appoint a sitting judge to investigate and report. He has to then send the report along with his recommendations to the Speaker within 90 days.

If the allegations against either the Lokayukta or the Upalokyaukta are proved, two thirds of the members of the Assembly have to vote for their removal to complete the process. Until then, the fate of both Justice Rao and Justice Adi will hang in the balance.

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First published: 28 November 2015, 18:44 IST
 
Ramakrishna Upadhya @rkupadhya9

Ramkrishna Upadhya is a senior journalist based in Bangalore, currently working with TV9. Earlier, he was with Deccan Herald, The Telegraph and The Indian Express.

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