Social Activist SR Hiremath has demanded a probe into the assets of Justice Vishwanath Shetty’s family members, days after the retired judge was nominated for the Karnataka Lokayukta job by the state government. Justice Vishwanath’s selection is currently pending with the Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala, who has twice rejected the government’s previous choice, over allegations of filing a false affidavit.
Speaking to Samaya TV, Hiremath alleged that Justice Vishwanath had submitted a false affidavit to obtain a 9,600 sq ft site at the Judicial Layout in Bengaluru’s RT Nagar. Hiremath also alleged that the affidavit did not reveal the properties registered under the names of Shetty’s sons. “He has a 4.3 acre plot in Kundapur, a flat worth Rs 6 crore located on Bengaluru’s Race Course Road, which was purchased in 2012 under his son’s name. Another house was purchased in Cunningham Road worth Rs 5.57 crore,” Hiremath alleged.
Karnatala Chief Minister Siddharamaiah has meanwhile rejected the allegations against Justice Vishwanath.
“Many judges have bought properties before and so has Justice Vishwanath. I don’t think these allegations have to be taken seriously,” Siddaramaiah told media persons.
Hiremath, while speaking on Samaya TV, said that he would launch an agitation against the state government’s decision. He said that Siddaramaiah had betrayed the people of Karnataka by proposing to appoint Justice Vishwanath as the Lokayukta chief. “With this decision, the Karnataka government has belittled the importance of Lokayukta. I will consult freedom fighter H S Doreswamy before launching the agitation,” Hiremath told media persons on Wednesday in Dharwad.
While the Leader of Opposition and the Speaker have supported the government’s nomination, according to local media reports, the Aam Aadmi Party members have opposed the appointment after news of Hiremath’s letter to the Governor.
Justice Vishwanath, who served as a judge in the Karnataka HC from 1999 to 2004, was named by the collegium to the post that has been lying vacant for over a year. The previous Lokayukta, Justice Y Bhaskar Rao, exited the post in December 2015 following allegations of corruption against his son.
According to reports, the collegium headed by the CM comprised of Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court SK Mukherjee, Speaker KB Koliwad, legislative council chairman DH Shankaramurthy, and leaders of the Opposition in both Houses, Jagadish Shettar and KS Eshwarappa.
Earlier this week, Hiremath reportedly wrote to Governor Vajubhai Vala, expressing his opposition to the appointment and had alleged that the judge was in a position of conflict of interest since he had appeared in the Supreme Court as an advocate for former BJP minister Gali Janardhan Reddy, whose disproportionate assets are being probed by the Lokayukta Police, and similarly Congress minister D K Shivakumar.
In 2011, Justice Shivaraj Patil, a former SC judge, quit the position of Karnataka Lokayukta, barely a month after he took over, following reports that his family owned multiple properties in violation of state rules.