In an embarrassment to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the state government over the issue of appointing Justice (retired) BS Patil as the Upa Lokayukta of the state. The HC was hearing a public interest litigation claiming Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had bypassed protocol over the matter.
The petitioners had claimed that Karnataka Chief Justice AS Oka was never made part of the consultation process even though it is mandated in the Karnataka Lokayukta Act.
The law mandates the CM shall advise the Governor following a consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Chairman of the Karnataka Legislative Council, the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, the Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Council, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.
The petitioners Samaj Parivartana Samudaya, an NGO has claimed while former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy in July had asked an opinion from the former Acting Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, the latter had said retired Justice AN Venugopala Gowda is the most suitable candidate. Even when Justice Oka took charge, then CM Kumaraswamy had asked for his opinion. Justice Oka had endorsed the choice of his predecessor.
Justice Patil was appointed as the Upa Lokayukta based on an order issued by Governor Vajubhai Vala. However, the petitioners noted that CM Yediyurappa after assuming office wrote to CJ Oka that after consulting all other stakeholders, it has been decided to appoint Justice Patil. This the NGO has termed as sheer fraud on power. The NGO wants the HC to quash Justice Patil’s appointment.
Incidentally, Yediyurappa whose party, the BJP (like the Congress) had promised to restore the power of the Lokayukta ahead of the elections in 2018 has not walked the talk yet. It may be recalled that it was the indictment by then Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde in an illegal mining case that forced Yediyurappa to step down from the Chief Minister’s chair in 2011.
The powers of the Lokayukta to probe corruption cases on its own has been diluted with former CM Siddaramaiah forming an Anti-Corruption Bureau which reports to the CM’s office. Under the present circumstances, the Lokayukta can probe only once a complaint is made and senior government staff can be questioned only once cleared by the government.