Bangalore: Just months after the Karnataka lokayukta’s report on illegal mining in the state forced former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa to resign, the anti-graft watchdog finds itself mired in controversies and facing a crisis of credibility.
The lokayukta has been without a head since September after former Supreme Court judge Shivaraj Patil stepped down within a month of taking charge after allegations that he had violated norms to get land allotment.
Existing vacancy: A file photo of Santosh Hegde. Karnataka governor H.R. Bhardwaj says he is ready to accept Hegde for a second lokayukta term. Photo: HT
Patil had taken over from justice Santosh Hegde, a key member of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement and who had prepared the report on illegal mining.
The search for Patil’s successor has made little headway following a stand-off between Karnataka governor H.R. Bhardwaj and the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government over the choice of the candidate.
Bhardwaj rejected the government’s choice of former Kerala high court chief justice S.R. Bannurmath, citing allegations of corruption against him. According to a joint legislature committee report in 2007, he was among several high court and Supreme Court judges who had received plots reserved for civic amenity sites, in violation of rules, from the Karnataka Judicial Employees Co-operative society.
“I have explained to the government through a detailed letter and I hope it gets into the head of the government. But I am not that (kind of) person who will appoint a wrong person,” said Bhardwaj, according to a PTI report on Wednesday.
Bhardwaj said he was ready to accept former lokayukta Hegde’s name for a second term. Hegde, though, has stated that he was not willing to take up the responsibility again.
Allegations of corruption have also been levelled against the lokayukta body itself. Former lokayukta S.P. Madhukar Shetty, in an interview to the Kannada newspaperKannada Prabha earlier this month, alleged that there was considerable corruption within the institution. Subsequently, state BJP president K.S. Eshwarappa has called for a debate on the need for a lokayukta.
The state unit of the Congress is critical of Eshwarappa’s stance.
“No institution is free from corruption and we cannot shut down the institution solely on the basis of allegations,” said leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah H. “It is strange that when the BJP is demanding the establishment of the Lokpal at the Centre, it is talking of winding up the lokayukta at the state.”
Siddaramaiah has called upon chief minister D.V. Sadanada Gowda to refrain from insisting on Bannurmath’s appointment and to find another candidate for the post.
The absence of a head of the lokayukta is conspicuous at a time when several high-profile cases of corruption against top politicians in Karnataka, including Yeddyurappa, are being investigated by the anti-graft watchdog.
Since Hegde’s retirement, two top lokayukta officials investigating Yeddyurappa have been transferred. Lokayukta police deputy inspector general Pranab Mohanty was transferred to the Bangalore City Police on 23 August, a day after he filed a first information report against Yeddyurappa in the illegal mining case under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Lokayukta additional director general of police, Jeevan Kumar V. Gaonkar, who was investigating several land denotification cases against Yeddyurappa, was transferred on 10 November, two days before the BJP leader was granted bail by the high court.