New Karnataka Lokayukta faces uphill task of restoring ombudsman’s credibility2 min read . Updated: 30 Jan 2017, 12:15 AM IST
New Karnataka Lokayukta P. Vishwanath Shetty says his biggest job is to make the institution 'stronger and more powerful'
Bengaluru: P. Vishwanath Shetty, a retired Karnataka high court judge, was sworn in on Saturday as the Lokayukta of Karnataka, a seat that has remained vacant since December 2015.
A senior advocate in the Supreme Court, Shetty, 72, faces an uphill task to clear pending cases and re-establish the credibility of the anti-corruption ombudsman after the disgraceful exit of his predecessor Y. Bhaskar Rao.
Shetty said his biggest job is to make the institution “stronger and more powerful".
“It is not about the individual (Lokayukta) but the entire staff from top to bottom must commit themselves to the Lokayukta. They must feel like they are all Lokayuktas," he told Mint on Sunday.
Some opposition politicians have remarked that the institution of Lokayukta has been weakened by the government and questioned its credibility. This includes the setting up of the controversial Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), which takes over the prosecution powers from the anti-corruption watchdog.
Shetty, who did not comment on his predecessor’s alleged misdeeds, says courts will decide whether Rao is guilty or not. “Credibility is a perception of the people. But that opinion is created by the media," he said, while adding that the media does not know the impact of wrongful allegations on the alleged offender.
Rao resigned in December 2015 after investigations showed his son Y. Ashwin was allegedly running extortion rings threatening raids if they did not pay up. Rao was granted conditional bail by the special Lokayukta court on Saturday.
Shetty too has faced allegations of encroachment by him and his family. He laughs off the allegations, saying he is not worried as he has every record and transaction of the properties owned by him and his family. He even rattles off every single property, the day, date and cost of purchase and in some cases, even details of the previous owners. He says that most of the properties were bought before he was appointed judge in 1995. He says that it’s very important for someone being appointed as Lokayukta to have a “clean personal life" as it has a bearing on the chair he occupies.
Shetty has earlier represented Karnataka energy minister D.K. Shivakumar and former mining baron G. Janardhana Reddy. He said he would recuse himself from any pending cases against the two individuals in the future.
Shetty said he earns far more money as a Supreme Court lawyer and the only reason he accepted this post was to give back something to the society.
Shetty, who is originally from Dakshina Kannada district, has previously served as the Bar council nominee in the Press Council of India.
Shetty has a reputation as a compassionate individual. “Genuinely his heart beats for the underdog," said Brijesh Kalappa, a Supreme Court lawyer, who was associated with Shetty on many occasions. Kalappa on Sunday told Mint that Shetty speaks his mind and will not show anybody any consideration on who the person is.