In the run-up to Assembly polls in Karnataka, both the national parties— BJP and Congress have claimed that they will bring back Lokayukta if it is voted to power.
A few days ago, it was BJP’s spokesperson Vaman Acharya. He promised that the party would restore the institution back to its glory days if it’s elected back to power. Notably, BJP state chief Yeddyurappa had to step down as Chief Minister in 2011 following his indictment by the same anti-corruption ombudsman in connection with the multi-crore mining case
Now, the Congress in its manifesto has promised to reverse the dilution that the institution has suffered under the watch of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. This despite its campaign being led by Siddaramaiah.
In January this year, the Lokayukta had to approach the Karnataka High Court to prevent interference from the state government.
This followed the highly contentious move by the Siddaramaiah government introducing the Anti-Corruption Bureau in 2016. After ACB’s introduction, the Lokayukta lost the power to file cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act on its own or conduct raids rendering it toothless.
The Lokayakuta can probe cases based only on complaints addressed to them following the permission of the state government. The ACB, unlike the independent Lokayukta, reports to the CM’s office.
Yeddyurappa was quick to attack the Congress’ poll promise. He tweeted, “@siddaramaiah govt weakened Lokayukta by taking away its powers & now the Congress manifesto promises to strengthen Lokayukta! First, strip away all the powers of Karnataka Lokayukta then for public posturing - talk about restoring its glory. What a shame!
.@siddaramaiah govt weakened Lokayukta by taking away its powers & now the Congress manifesto promises to strengthen Lokayukta! First, strip away all the powers of Karnataka Lokayukta then for public posturing - talk about restoring its glory. What a shame!#CongManifestoScamB.S. Yeddyurappa (@BSYBJP) April 28, 2018
Reacting to this Justice (retired) Santosh Hegde, the then Lokayukta and former Supreme Court judge, who had indicted Yeddyurappa, said, “This is literally fooling the people.”
“In 2013, the present CM walked from Bengaluru to Ballari for not implementing the Lokayukta report on mining. Now in 2013, when they came to power, the first thing they did was to curb the power of Lokayukta with regards to grievance redressal. By 2016, they removed the Anti-corruption part of the Lokayukta and created the ACB,” Justice Hedge told TNM.
The former Judge called out Congress’ hypocrisy, stating, “Now, since elections are coming, they are making this promise. They are saying they are going to give suo motu power to the Lokayukta that was there from 2006 to 2011. Who took it away?” he questioned,
“Now suddenly ahead of the polls, you realise that should be given back. What sort of blatant lies are these people talking,” Hegde remarked.
Quick not to give the BJP the benefit of the doubt, he also asked why did the BJP at Centre did not institute the Lokpal.
“They did not want the Lokpal, now that the Supreme Court has intervened, they have appointed a committee to select a Lokpal but otherwise nobody was interested. But when the time comes whoever is in power will claim credit for bringing the Lokpal,” he said.