Santosh Hegde threatens to quit Lokpal committee

Santosh Hegde threatens to quit Lokpal committee

New Delhi/Bangalore: Justice Santosh Hegde on Thursday threatened to quit the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill as the alleged smear campaign against civil society activists snowballed and a government forensic lab found no tampering of a CD involving lawyer Shanti Bhushan.

Hegde, a former Supreme Court judge and now Karnataka Lokayukta, said he was thinking of resigning from the ten member committee because he was upset over the “continuous and day-to-day vilification" campaign against activists.

He especially “hurt" by Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s attack on him that he was not acting against corruption in Karnataka. Singh, however, reacted saying he did not challenge anybody and if the Lokayukta was so “good and effective", then why there was corruption in Karnataka.

“I am thinking of resigning. I will take a decision after talking to my colleagues, including Anna Hazare," he said.

Hegde’s threat came on a day when civil society activists Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi ruled out resignation of Shanti Bhushan and his son Prashant Bhushan from the joint committee in the wake of a slew of controversies surrounding them.

“There is no question of anybody resigning from the joint committee. No one will resign. We are at a historic juncture where we are going to have a strong anti-corruption law. We are not the ones who run away from battle zones," they told a press conference in Delhi.

The demand for their resignation mounted after Delhi Police leaked out information citing CFSL report that the CD allegedly involving Shanti Bhushan, the co-chairman of the committee, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh, was not tampered with as claimed by the Bhushans.

Prashant Bhushan had claimed on Sunday on the basis of a report from a private forensic lab that the CD was doctored and fabricated by Amar Singh.

Though the Bhushans remained quiet on the allegations against them, Kejriwal and Bedi said the civil society members were together and the “entire malicious" campaign launched by some “corrupt elements in and out of government" was aimed at derailing the drafting of a strong Lokpal Bill.

“Everything stinks," Hegde said referring to “the manner in which the vilification campaign first went against (Anna) Hazare, then against Bhushans (Shanti and son Prasant)."

“This is absolutely false. This is contrary to facts. I am not a politician. I cannot fight this type of battle," he said adding Digvijay Singh’s remarks were “hurting" at a time when his party leader Sonia Gandhi had made it clear she does not support any smear campaign.

Singh on Thursday said that it has been said that the Lokayukta institution in Karnataka is better than any other similar body in India and wondered “if he (Hegde) can’t stop corruption in Karnataka, then what is his effectiveness."