news Sunday, June 28, 2015 - 05:30
  As they say in Kannada, “bEliye eddu hullannu mEydantey” – When the fence itself rises to graze on the grass. For the second time since the retirement of former Supreme Court judge Justice N Santhosh Hegde as Karnataka Lokayukta, the anti-corruption wing has found itself embroiled in allegations of internal corruption. The first indications of corruption within the Lokayukta came to light in May with suspicion arising that officers posted in the anti-corruption wing were abusing their position and power to run an extortion racket. In a month’s time, that suspicion has only grown stronger, with more details emerging. RTI activists are now demanding that Lokayukta Y Bhaskar Rao resign, as there were allegations against him, but no response or even clarification forthcoming. Here is a brief timeline of how events have unfolded. May Zilla Panchayat (Bengaluru Urban) engineer Krishnamurthy receives a call from one Krishna Rao on May 5 and 7, asking him to pay a bribe of Rs 1 crore if he wanted to escape Lokayukta raids. He approached Bengaluru City Lokayukta SP Sonia Narang who learned upon investigation that the calls were made to him from the Lokayukta headquarters in MS Building in Bengaluru. On May 11, Narang submitted a report to Rao communicating these findings. June Rao claimed that he had ordered an inquiry by the Inspector-General of the Lokayukta Pronab Mohanty on June 6, nearly a month after Narang submitted the report. On June 23, Upa Lokayukta Suresh B Adi asked Narang to investigate and submit the report to his office. On June 24, RTI activists staged a protest in the Anand Rao circle area of the city demanding that Lokayukta Y Bhaskar Rao resign. Speaking to The News Minute on the day of the protest, member of the RTI Activists’ Forum S Bhaskaran said that two people namely Ashwin and Krishna Rao had been using the name of Lokayukta officials to demand bribes. “Ashwin Rao is reportedly the Lokayukta’s son, but there has been no answer from him. How can people trust the institution in such a scenario?” Bhaskaran said. He said that RTI activists would file a Public Interest Litigation with the Karnataka High Court, if the Governor did not seek a resignation from the Lokayukta in the coming days. On June 26, Lokayukta Rao ordered a probe by the Central Crime Branch (CCB). A day later, Upa Lokayukta Suresh B Adi said that he should have been consulted as he had already asked Narang to conduct a probe. Adi also said that the CCB does not have the expertise to conduct such a probe. On June 27, The Hindu reported that Rao had acknowledged that Ashwin Rao was his son, but denied the latter’s involvement in the case. He also claimed that he did not know any Krishna Rao. On June 28, The Hindu and The Times of India reported on the modus operandi of the alleged extortion racket being run in collusion with Lokayukta officers themselves. Members of the extortion racket – including Lokayukta officials – target government officials by filing RTIs seeking information on their work and the projects cleared by them. Soon, these officials find themselves receiving calls asking them to pay up if they wanted to avoid Lokayukta raids. This has reportedly been going on for a year. Bhaskaran however, has said that a Lokayukta SP could not conduct an impartial investigation her when the integrity of the head of the institution – the Lokayukta himself – was the subject of inquiry. Who is Krishna Rao? So far, Krishna Rao remains only a name, with no face or any other information available about him. The Lokayukta ordered a CCB inquiry around the time that the Lokayukta police were reportedly closing in on this person. Allegations against Rao are being made for the second time In September 2011, the then Lokayukta Shivraj Patil resigned after it came to light that he and his wife and allegedly illegally been allotted two residential plots in a housing colony meant for judicial employees. Patil had denied committing any illegal act.  AAP leader Ravi Krishna Reddy told Hindustan Times that Rao’s appointment was “wrong”, as he too had allegedly been a beneficiary of the plots that Patil was accused of obtaining illegally.
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