A robust mechanism that was supposed to fight corruption now struggles to survive

Former Karnataka Lokayukta to face trial for corruption the watchdog agency remains headless
news Trial Wednesday, November 23, 2016 - 19:34

Last year, for the first time in India’s history, a sitting Lokayukta was accused of corruption and actively aiding a network of bribes and extortion.

In December 2015, Karnataka Lokayukta Bhaskar Rao resigned after hanging on to his post adamantly in spite of mounting allegations against him and his son.

Now, the former Lokayukta is all set to face trial, in a case of corruption and extortion, that is being heard by special Lokayukta court in Bengaluru.

On Tuesday, the state High Court quashed Bhaskar Rao’s petition challenging the proceedings against him.

Having served as the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court for a period of three months, Rao challenged that as an ex-judge he was immune from proceedings. He also alleged that there were procedural lapses in the case.

Justice Anand Byrareddy however quashed the petition citing lack of any merit.

The HC said that since the former judge had resigned from office, the trial court need not seek prior sanction to prosecute him under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, reported The Times of India.

The first suspicions of corruption within the Lokayukta surfaced in May 2015, and officers posted in the anti-corruption wing were accused of abusing their position to run an extortion racket.

The case against Lokayukta’s son Y Ashwin was filed in the same month by a government executive engineer, M N Krishnamurthy. He accused Ashwin of running an extortion ring in the Lokayukta, threatening officers with raids if they failed to pay up.

Krishnamurthy alleged that Ashwin had demanded Rs 1 crore to stop the initiation of corruption proceedings against officers.

An audio clip of a call made by Rao revealed that he too had been involved in the scandal.

After Ashwin and accomplices were arr​​ested in June, Rao went on an extended leave.

Rao, who headed the Lokayukta for over 34 months, stepped down in December 2015 after the state Assembly moved a motion against him.

In a significant move, Karnataka governor Vajubhai R Vala in July 2016 gave his nod to the Special Investigating Team (SIT) to prosecute Rao over his alleged role in a corruption racket. 

Rao will now face trial for the allegations against him, but the state government has still not found a replacement for him.  A robust mechanism that was supposed to fight corruption now struggles to survive, its reputation battered.