Justice Y Bhaskar Rao has finally resigned as Karnataka Lokayukta, capping months of uncertainty triggered by serious corruption allegations against his son. While his exit brings the curtains down on a sordid drama, it may be a case of too little too late as far as the image of the institution set up to fight corruption is concerned. Ever since Lokayukta SP Sonia Narang filed a report following a complaint alleging extortion by Rao’s son Ashwin in May, there has been a clamour for the Lokayukta’s removal. But Rao, a former Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, decided to stay put. Even after Ashwin was arrested on July 27, Rao merely proceeded on leave, jeopardizing the quasi-judicial body. His refusal to go prompted the government to amend the Lokayukta Act to make it easier to remove him. His resignation came only after Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa admitted a motion seeking his removal. By then, the damage had been done.
Now, the Lokayukta in Karnataka, one of the first states to have such a body, is practically defunct. Upa Lokayukta Subhash Adi has stopped attending to work due to a motion submitted by the ruling Congress for his removal, a move seen as an attempt to undermine the anti-corruption institution. Rao’s exit was inevitable, but it took longer than it should have. His son was accused of running an extortion racket, operating out of Rao’s official residence and targeting officials deemed to be corrupt. Multiple chargesheets have been filed against Ashwin and many others, including a former Lokayukta public relations officer. But these were not enough for Rao to make an honourable exit, as he should have considering that he headed an organisation that drew strength from people’s faith in it. He could have taken cue from his predecessor, Justice Shivaraj Patil, who resigned following reports of irregularities in allotment of plots.
Rao’s resignation has triggered a political blame game of sorts between the Congress and the BJP. While Congress claims he was appointed during the previous BJP regime, the latter says his name was recommended by the then Governor H R Bhardwaj, a Congressman. It’s high time they realised their political games have done enough damage to the institution. There’s no time to waste. Parties must unite to find a replacement for Justice Rao at the earliest. Surely, they can do this much to allay people’s fears of attempts to destroy the Lokayukta and ensure that the institution is back on its feet soon.