A defunct metal detector stands aimlessly at the entrance of the Karnataka Lokayukta office located in Bengaluru’s Ambedkar Veedhi. On one side, sits a security guard with a ledger to record a visitor’s name and time of arrival. The entire security apparatus at the Lokayukta office comprises eight CCTV cameras, and two gunmen assigned to the top anti-corruption officer.
Hours after Justice Vishwanatha Shetty, the Lokayukta of Karnataka was repeatedly stabbed at his office on Wednesday, the question that is being raised is- was there a lapse in security?
Revisiting the crime scene
When TNM visited the office of the anti-corruption ombudsman hours after the stabbing incident, this reporter found that basic security measures were not in place. Metal detector installed by the entrance did not beep when people passed through it, while there were no guards to frisk bags of visitors. Staff working at the Lokayukta office corroborated this as well.
The absence of security personnel to frisk visitors made it easy for the accused Thejaraj Sharma to sneak in a kitchen knife, police say.
Mahesh Kammar, an advocate who works at the Lokayukta office, says security has been lax at the premises for a long time. "There was a fire in one part of the premises three years ago. A probe was conducted to find out the cause. We have been asking for better security since then because of the kind of cases (corruption) we handle," he said.
Opposition blames Congress
Pointing fingers at the ruling Congress, the Opposition was quick to raise doubts over the security provided to Karnataka’s top anti-corruption officer. Taking a dig at the Congress, former Prime Minister and JD (S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda said that the Lokayukta as an institution was already being killed by the state government, and now its chief has been attacked. By introducing the Anti-Corruption Bureau in 2016, the Siddaramaiah-led government has systematically reduced the once-powerful Lokayukta into a toothless body. While the ACB, which reports to the CM’s office, has been given the power to file cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Lokayukta needs the state government’s permission to conduct raids or trap corrupt officers.
BJP state chief BS Yeddyurappa termed the attack an example of “goondaraj” under the Congress rule.
Former Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader, R Ashok hit out at CM Siddaramaiah, stating, “He can give security to Sasikala but not to a judge. This is not a small incident. A judge is also not safe in Karnataka, what about the common man?" He went a step further and demanded that President’s rule be imposed in the state.
However, CM Siddaramaiah told reporters, “Hundreds of people visit the Lokayukta. There was a gunman outside the office. The attack happened inside the building,” without admitting any security breach on part of the administration.