We are ready to take up all corruption cases: Karnataka Lokayukta Justice BS Patil
We have informed all our district police units to receive and register complaints from the public and proceed with the investigation so that there is no scope for vaccum.
BENGALURU: With the ‘teeth and claws’ back again with the Karnataka Lokayukta by an order of the Karnataka High Court, the corruption watchdog is getting ready to bring back its past glory. “We are ready. Anyone can come without any hesitation to file complaints,” says Lokayukta Justice BS Patil while sharing his views with The New Sunday Express.
Have the directions of the Karnataka High Court, while abolishing the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), been implemented?
The implementation has two aspects. One is automatic consequences following the abolition of the ACB and quashing of the notifications withdrawing police station powers to disable the Lokayukta from registering cases of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The powers are restored automatically. With this, anybody can file complaints with the Lokayukta. If there is a prima facie case, we register a complaint, book culprits and subject them to prosecution.
To date, we have received only one complaint, while two people have enquired with us about filing complaints. We have informed all our district police units to receive and register complaints from the public and proceed with the investigation so that there is no scope for giving an impression that there is a vacuum.
The second aspect of the order is complying with the HC directions to transfer cases from the ACB to the Lokayukta. The state government has to take a decision to list the cases pending in all units of ACB across the state and transfer them to us. We then have to start further investigation from the stage where it was pending before the ACB, in addition to continuing the proceedings pending before the courts.
What is the response of the state government in transferring cases and giving you additional staff since you have written to the government that no progress has been made despite the 17 days that have elapsed since the HC order?
Some administrative action is required since it is a sensitive issue. An order has to be issued by the government to shift cases and staff to us from the ACB. The state government has already made it clear that it will abide by the HC order. When our officials met the Chief Secretary, she said the government is getting ready to transfer the cases and staff, and the process will be expedited.
What about pending maladministration cases registered under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act?
There is a huge pendency of cases. The post of Lokayukta was kept vacant for about five months. Of the two posts of Upa Lokayukta, one is vacant, while Justice KN Phaneendra is visiting districts to take justice to the doorsteps of the needy. We are not only disposing of cases in the office but also taking files home to study. The potential of police, administration, inquiry and general wings is being tapped, which is yielding better results. A minimum target for each inquiry officer has been set to scrutinise cases every month which will help in the speedy disposal of cases.
Any mechanism to strengthen the institution?
We are apprising the government of the number of vacant posts every month to expedite the process of filling them up to help us address pendency. I have also heard that the government has decided to fill some vacant posts. We will consider hearing cases through videoconferencing to settle matters early. For this, the infrastructure is needed.
There is a general perception that corruption is rampant in every walk of life. What is your view?
There are good people in all institutions and so are dubious characters. Instead of generalising, if anyone points out that a specific person is corrupt, we can initiate action. Even in our institution, we are checking the backgrounds of officials to know whether they are facing any allegations, corruption charges, etc., and two officials were sent back to their parent departments. Also, I have discussed with the ADGP to ensure that there are only physically fit police officers with integrity in the institution.
Contractors are alleging that ministers are demanding a 40 per cent commission. Any action on this issue?
I don’t want to comment as the issue is not before us. But we are ready to take action if anybody files a complaint with supporting documents. Unless we are satisfied that there is a case prima facie, we cannot take any action. Genuine people come forward to file complaints with proof to support their claims, while some get their work done by making mere allegations.
Expectations of the people are high and also there are huge challenges before Lokayukta, which is more needed now than ever...
True. We will take suitable decisions once the cases and staff are transferred from ACB. For now, I have had an in-house discussion on being ready to take up challenges. We are prepared to act on complaints under the Prevention of Corruption Act with the existing personnel, be it a trap, raid or surprise visit.
What is your message to the public?
File complaints without any hesitation if there are any grievances, either maladministration or corruption. We will probe impartially and ensure punishment in accordance with the law, without fail. No stone will be unturned to achieve our objective.