Karnataka HC scraps Anti-Corruption Bureau, transfers cases to Lokayukta
The Karnataka HC was dealing with a PIL filed by advocate Chidananda Urs, Advocates' Association of Bangalore and Samaja Parivarthana Samudaya challenging the constitution of ACB.
BENGALURU: In a major development that is likely to strengthen the fight against corrupt public servants, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday quashed the March 14, 2016 order of the then State government forming the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and shifted the cases pending before the ACB to the Lokayukta.
The court while abolishing the ACB observed that the bureau had been formed as a parallel body by the political executive to shield corrupt politicians, ministers and officers from the watchful eyes of the independent quasi-judicial body, the Karnataka Lokayukta, headed by a retired judge of higher judiciary.
“If the government really intends to curb corruption, favouritism and official indiscipline, ACB should have been allowed to work under the Lokayukta, instead of the Chief Minister, as stated in the executive order. Therefore, there is more scope in the executive order for political influence and the chief minister in power can misuse the ACB to control his opponents within his party or the opposite parties.
The conditions of the executive order in question clearly depicts that there is a possibility to favour the party in power or the party men,” a division bench of Justice B Veerappa and Justice K S Hemalekha, observed.
The court noted that Lokayukta had created history and was a model to the entire country by making a chief minister and a minister resign from power and had sent them to prison in 2011. It had also made a Lokayukta resign over his son’s involvement in corruption. This was possible because of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act and Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act.
The court said ACB had not registered any criminal cases against the ministers, MPs, MLAs and MLCs but only registered some against the authorities.
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The court observed that the state government was weakening the Lokayukta institution to protect corrupt public servants from prosecution under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act and indirectly made Lokayukta and Upa Lokayuktas “paper tigers without any teeth and claws.”
The court restored the notifications which were withdrawn by the state government in 2016 to take away powers from Lokayukta to probe cases under the PC Act.
Quashing both the notifications dated March 14, 2016, and March 19, 2016, issued by the state government for creating ACB and taking away powers from Lokayukta, the court clarified that all inquiries, investigations and other disciplinary proceedings pending before the ACB will be transferred to Lokayukta.
Allowing PILs filed by advocate Chidananda Urs, Advocates’ Association of Bangalore and Samaj Parivartana Samudaya, challenging the setting up of ACB, the court held that the state government was not justified in constituting the ACB by an executive order dated March 14, 2016 and superseding the earlier notifications dated February 6, 1991, May 8, 2002 and December 5, 2002 which authorised the Lokayukta police with powers to investigate under the PC Act and had declared the officers of Police Wing of the Lokayukta as Police Stations under the CrPC.
The state government contended that it had powers under Article 162 of the Constitution to form the ACB which was a policy decision, and hence the order issued to constitute ACB did not conflict with provisions of the Karnataka Lokayukta.