BENGALURU: The state legislators’ drive to remove Lokayukta Justice Y Bhaskar Rao seems to have lost steam. Rao is facing charges of allowing his son and associates to run an extortion racket from his office and official residence.
Neither the Opposition nor the state government has taken up the issue even 40 days after the new legislation that simplifies the process of removing a Lokayukta came into force.
During the Belagavi session in July, several members, mainly from the Opposition benches, wanted to remove the Lokayukta. A few ruling Congress MLAs also echoed similar views. But their efforts did not make headway owing to confusion over the number of MLAs or MLCs — depending on the House in which the motion is to be moved — needed to sign the notice seeking the removal of Lokayukta.
The old Karnataka Lokayukta Act was not clear on the Lokayukta’s removal. Under that Act, the Lokayukta can be removed by following the same procedure as that of impeaching an SC or a High Court judge, but with necessary changes. This procedure required that 100 members of the Lok Sabha or 50 of the Rajya Sabha must sign the notice.
Citing this, the ruling Congress contended that 100 MLAs and 50 MLCs must sign the notice, whereas the Opposition said the number should be proportionate to the strength of the House. This led to the amendment of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act. Under the revised rules, just one-third members of either House must sign the notice. This means that 75 MLAs of the 224-member Assembly need to sign the notice. Similarly, in the Legislative Council, 25 of the 75 members have to sign the notice.
The Opposition parties, which should have been forcing the government to act, have become quiet now.
The Opposition parties have not given any notice to the chairpersons of the Houses and are also not demanding that the government convene a session.
However, a BJP MLA denied that they were keeping mum on the issue. “We have already started collecting the signatures of MLAs. Of our 47 MLAs, 42 have already signed. Since the House should be in session to give notice, we are waiting for the government to convene a session,” said C T Ravi, who is entrusted with the task of getting the signatures of MLAs.
However, a legislature officer on condition of anonymity dismissed Ravi’s argument and said notice can be given any time, even when the House is not in session.
Ravi said he had also spoken to JD(S) floor leader in the Assembly H D Kumaraswamy to get the signatures of his party MLAs.
On its part, the government also does not seem to be keen on convening a session and starting the process to remove the Lokayukta. There were reports that a special session would be convened in the first week of September, which did not happen. Then the reports said the session would be held in the last week of September, which also did not happen.
Last week, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T B Jayachandra himself had said the session would be convened in the first week of October. The Cabinet meeting held last Monday was to finalise the date, according to him. But that also did not happen. Sources in the government now say the session will be held only in November. “It only shows how political parties are indifferent to such an important issue. Nobody wants this Lokayukta to go. Otherwise, what is stopping them from starting the process when the law itself has been amended?” asked former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde.
Since July, the SIT police investigating the case have arrested Lokayukta Justice Bhaskar Rao’s son Ashwin Rao and his associates.
The Lokayukta himself has been grilled by the SIT officials at his residence in Hyderabad.