"Lokayukta would be only a word in the dictionary"

Is Karnatakas anti-corruption body a ploy to kill Lokayukta institution
news Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 20:42

The Karnataka government has dusted out the anti-corruption bureau from the store-house of discarded laws. However, the move has raised suspicions that the idea is to deliver a few more blows to a battered Lokayukta, effectively rendering it useless to fight corruption.

On Monday, the government issued an executive order, stripping the Karnataka Lokayukta of its powers to investigate corruption cases and creating the ACB for this purpose. The ACB was junked in the 1960s.

Why the ACB is a problem

The Karnataka Lokayukta functions under two laws. The Lokayukta deals with two things

Maladministration – under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, through the Lokayukta institution by the Upalokayuktas

Corruption – under the Prevention of Corruption Act, through the police wing which investigates complaints, and is headed by Additional Director General of Police.

Now, the Karnataka government has decided to relieve the Lokayukta of its duties of investigating corruption complaints under the Prevention of Corruption Act by placing the ACB under the thumb of a cabinet minister.

What does this mean?

Under the law, the ACB will need the government’s permission to even initiate any investigation against any public official of any rank.

So, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah would have to grant sanction for prosecution, if a complaint is given against cabinet members.

What makes it even more diabolical, is that the ACB will be under the direct control of the Chief Minister, even if the body is investigating the Chief Minister. However, the Lokayukta is a quasi-judicial body, with far more powers than the ACB, and is not under the direct control of the CM.

Jurists and Opposition trash the decision

N Santhosh Hegde, former Lokayukta:

After the Lokpal Bill was in 2013, there was an attempt to dilute the powers of the Karnataka Lokayukta by modeling it on the Lokpal, and giving it power only to fight corruption (and not public grievances). The revival of ACB is an obvious attempt to remove the whole body and there is collateral interest involved in this.

When the ACB will function directly under a cabinet minister, how can anyone expect it to function impartially?

Suresh Kumar, BJP leader

Systematically the sanctity of the Lokayukta institution has been diminished. It was because the government took its own time with Bhaskar Rao. And the way it dealt with Adi, I think it spoke volumes. There was a lot of resistance to bringing the Lokpal Bill (in Karnataka). So they resorted to this. Soon, Lokayukta would be only a word in the dictionary. They silently progressed with this executive order to revive ACB which is sheer travesty. Now that executive order is passed, the judicial forum must question this and the combined opposition should debate on this in the assembly too.

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