‘Taking power of Lokayukta is unsustainable’: Lokayukta Justice P. Vishwanath Shetty

City Politics State

Protests at Maurya Circle by Karnataka Rashtra Samithi (KRS) party.

The Karnataka Rashtra Samithi (KRS) party workers demand scrapping of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and restoring powers of Lokayukta.

“Taking the powers of Lokayukta is totally wrong and unsustainable,” said the incumbent Justice P. Vishwanath Shetty, Lokayukta Karnataka at a protest organized by KRS at Maurya Circle,

“Police who are working under Lokayukta have complete freedom and are also protected by the Lokayukta. So no one can interfere in the investigation process and it will be safer for bureaucrats. The matter is still in court and we will let them decide,” he added.

The Karnataka Lokayukta, published in 1984, investigates and reports on corruption in the government bodies and also addresses public grievances related to government employees. In fact, in 2011, the Santosh Hedge Lokayukta report on illegal mining had led to the resignation of former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa.

In the last four years, only three people have been convicted by the ACB out of 1445 raids, a Right to Information (RTI) request filed by the Dr. Shivaram revealed.

Officials at ACB, however say thatthe figures are incorrect. At least 10 people have been convicted till now, they added. 

The RTI said the financial expenditure for the FY 2019-20 of ACB, Bengaluru Division was Rs. 150 crores, almost half of the ACB Karnataka state’s expenditure of Rs. 345 crores. 

Deepak, General Secretary of KRS said, “Recently, the ACB officials conducted raids on top government officials. They recovered the money from house pipes, but the accused officers will be suspended for a few months or will be transferred. The conviction rate is very less.”

A Center for Media studies report says Karnataka  emerged as more corrupt states among 20 surveyed states as far as ‘experienced corruption in public services’ is concerned, with a rate of 70 percent. Around 65 percent of households across Karnataka felt that the level of corruption has increased, the study says.

Earlier, the Lokayukta police were responsible for filing FIRs. That power has been taken away and transferred to ACB, Indira, Kolar District President claimed. 

Other party officials at the protest say, , the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government had claimed at the previous assembly election in 2018 to scrap ACB after coming to power, but nothing has happened.

Deepak said, “If you want to  complain against a top government official today, even with substantial evidence, citizens have to write to the government seeking permission for the grievance. Earlier Lokayukta has no such outlays.”,  

Often the top officials are transferred, there is no independence to function autonomously, he added. 

The protesters say the powers under The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, were stripped from Lokayukta police and transferred to ACB.  Lokayukta had an administrative control that gave them independence, they added.

Officials at ACB, however, refute the claims made by the party officials. “The Lokayukta powers remain the same. We have just removed the Lokayukta police from their control to ACB.”

Alice Mathew, Head of Political Science Department and Associate Professor at Mount Carmel College said Lokayukta has always been a pride of Karnataka. “Several notable cases, especially of the illegal mining scam, under the institution have helped to unearth corruption in the state. The fact it is slowly becoming defunct is unfortunate.”  The government should work towards giving their power back that they deserve, she added. Even the in body of ACB currently, including the chief minister’s role is unfavorable,” she added.