BENGALURU: “Is this the man who walked down from Bengaluru to Ballari to fight corruption?” asked Justice A N Venugopala Gowda of the Karnataka High Court, without taking Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s name.
Roundly slamming the government’s hasty move to establish the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), widely perceived as weakening the Lokayukta, Justice Gowda said that it has paralysed the Lokayukta system and created a vacuum with neither the Lokayukta police nor ACB receiving complaints against corruption for the past 15 days.
“Why did you ask the Lokayukta police not to register complaints? Have you not created a vacuum? We’ve seen people leaving the country itself if a day is delayed in registering a complaint,” he said.
Attacking the government’s hasty move, Justice Gowda said, “It does not appear that consultation at different levels was taken before the decision to create the ACB. Your manifesto is to strengthen the Lokayukta, but brazen action could be seen taking place in last 15 days.”
Justice Gowda is monitoring the Lokayukta cases in relation to the petition filed by Dr Nandish from Mandya, who challenged a case registered by the Lokayukta police. Before adjourning the matter to March 31, Justice Gowda asked the Additional Advocate General (AAG) A S Ponnanna to provide details of ACB’s progress.
On March 14, the state government had announced setting up of a separate anti-graft body that wrested away many of the Lokayukta’s powers. Despite strident opposition from anti-corruption activists and opposition parties, and also dissenting voices from within his party, Siddaramaiah justified the move and has refused to reverse the order.
When the AAG referred to the office of the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) of ACB, Justice Gowda said, “I have read that ADGP has gone on leave. If a person from Bidar wants to file complaint, where should he go if police station powers are accorded to only the ADGP office?”
Referring to the 201 posts lying vacant in the Lokayukta police wing as against 733 sanctioned posts, Justice Gowda asked, “How will you have one more anti-corruption body when you are not filling the vacancy? You did not make the Lokayukta police wing fully functional. What purpose can be achieved by having A, B, C, D?”
Reading out more than a dozen verdicts of the Supreme Court pertaining to corruption, Justice Gowda said no day goes in the country without corruption. “So, was it not the topmost priority of the government to make Lokayukta police wing functional? It becomes difficult to survive where corruption is neglected,” he said.
AAG Ponnanna argued that they will alter the manual prepared for Lokayukta police as per the requirement of ACB and its office has opened in Khanija Bhavan.
On the efficiency of the police force, Justice A N Venugopala Gowda said that a woman was attacked in an ATM in broad daylight in the heart of the city. “There is video footage. Years have passed. The state informed me that it will trace the culprit within a week when I was hearing the matter an year ago. Where is our efficiency?” he asked, adding, “Fighting corruption and promoting efficiency in administration should be the mantra of public servants.”
court takes on GOVT
On 15 days of paralysis
Where should people go to lodge complaint? You’ve created a vacuum. Why did you withdraw the powers of Lokayukta police overnight? You have to continue Lokayukta police wing till a new system comes into existence
On hasty decision to constitute ACB
In a democracy, everybody should be taken into confidence. Views of the opposition parties should be heard also on all matters. Even advisers should have the wisdom of knowing the pulse of society