BENGALURU: After an animated debate, the Karnataka Assembly on Thursday changed the law to lay down a new procedure to remove the Lokayukta.
With the Karnataka Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill-2015, eligibility norms for the Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta, the judicial authorities steering the anti-corruption agency, too have been changed.
In the course of the day, the government also modified its proposal to amend Section 6 of the Bill, which deals with removal. The other procedures of the law, such as first referring corruption charges against a Lokayukta to the Chief Justice of the High Court, remain unchanged.
The Lokayukta can now be removed only if two-thirds of the members present in the House vote in favour, and not by a simple majority as proposed earlier.
The change was effected following objections from Leader of the Opposition Jagadish Shettar. “The clause makes the Lokayukta function at the mercy of the ruling party. It also gives scope for misuse. The government should make it a two-thirds majority and not a simple majority,” Shettar urged. Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa also expressed a similar view.
The Congress had introduced the Bill in the wake of the controversy surrounding Lokayukta Y Bhaskar Rao, who allegedly allowed his son Ashwin run an extortion racket from his office and official residence.
Ashwin and four others are in police custody.
As for the eligibility criteria, the 1984 Act said only a judge of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice of a High Court was eligible to be appointed as Lokayukta.
The new law says a judge who has served not less than 10 years in the High Court is eligible to be Lokayukta, and one who has put in not less than five years as a High Court judge can become Upa Lokayukta.
The Assembly had a detailed discussion before passing the amendment. Initiating the debate, Law Minister T B Jayachandra invited suggestions on how the Lokayukta Act could be amended to make the anti-corruption watchdog more effective.
He also read out a statement from former Chief Justice of India S Rajendra Babu, which appeared in Express on July 28, and said the House could consider his ideas.
Babu had suggested an amendment to empower the legislature to abolish the office of the Lokayukta whenever it is warranted. After the Lokayukta exits thus, the government should repeal the amendment, he said.
Though some members supported the idea, opposition members and former Law minister Suresh Kumar rejected it saying it would have far-reaching implications.
“It is not correct to kill an institution for one person. Let us amend Section 6 to empower the Assembly to remove the Lokayukta by a simple majority,” he suggested.
Congress MLA Ramesh Kumar favoured repealing of the Act to give lawmakers an opportunity to review it and plug its loopholes.
However, he had no objection to empowering the Assembly to remove the Lokayukta provided the government committed to the appointment of a new Lokayukta within a time frame.