The Common Minimum Programme agreed on by both JD(S) and Congress makes no mention of giving Lokayukta more powers.

Has JDS-Cong Karnataka govt forgotten its poll promise of strengthening Lokayukta
news Corruption Wednesday, August 01, 2018 - 18:41

The promise of reinstating the Lokayukta’s original powers of independently investigating corruption cases and taking action against government officers made ahead of the Karnataka elections by all the mainstream political parties seems to have been forgotten now.  

It has been more than two months since Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy assumed office as the head of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government, after the state witnessed dramatic post-poll parleys.

A new Budget has also been presented by the CM after the Common Minimum Programme was ratified by both parties through the co-ordination committee chaired by former CM Siddaramaiah. But there has been no development or discussion in this regard, TNM has learnt from reliable sources from both the parties in the coalition.

The issue itself has been omitted in the Common Minimum Programme agreed upon by the parties.

It was not only the Congress and the JD(S) which had promised to reverse the dilution of the institution, but also the BJP. While the BJP has been proactive in attacking Kumaraswamy over a partial farm loan waiver, there has been no criticism over this matter.   

Speaking on this, anti-corruption activist Narendra Kumar, General Secretary of Lanchamukta Karnataka Nirmana Vedike (Forum for Building Bribe-free Karnataka) said, “We know all the parties have forgotten about the promise. But we are willing to give more time for the government to settle and rounds of transfers end. Then we will start a campaign on this, to put pressure on the government to ensure the manifesto promise is kept. We don’t want the Anti-Corruption Bureau to continue but the Lokayukta to be strengthened.”

Uma Pathi, lawyer and advocate of transparency in governance, said, “This is not a surprise. The present government is formed with the support of the Congress. It is the Congress which had weakened the Lokayukta by weakening the ACB. So naturally, the present government is not willing to give the Lokayukta its original powers.”

“The ACB is just closing the cases against influential persons on the pretext of preliminary enquiry, which does not disclose any commission of offence. They are not following the standard operating procedure. Under RTI, we have asked what is the manual that they are adopting to discharge their duties. They have no standard procedure. This way corruption is only going to increase,” he added.

Read: Congress, BJP promise to revamp Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde calls it ‘lies’

In 2011, former CM BS Yeddyurappa, who assumed office for just two days following the recent Assembly elections, had to resign from the post following an indictment by the anti-corruption ombudsman (the position then held by former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Santosh Hegde) in connection with an illegal mining case.

Read: Once unseated a CM, but the powerful Karnataka Lokayukta is now on 'ventilator'

Despite the fact Siddaramaiah, who swept the polls after Yeddyurappa’s cabinet was dissolved, was the biggest beneficiary, he turned the Lokayukta into a paper tiger in 2016.

He introduced the Anti-Corruption Bureau in 2016, which meant the Lokayukta could not book cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act on its own or conduct raids. Moreover, unlike the Lokayukta, which was a quasi-judicial body independent of the state government, the ACB was under the CM’s office.

 
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