BENGALURU: The Lokayukta, the state anti-corruption watchdog, is likely to knock on the doors of the Karnataka High Court seeking directives to the State Government to clear the proposals seeking sanction for prosecution of bureaucrats, which have been pending for over five years.
Lokayukta Justice P Vishwanatha Shetty, who is demitting office on January 27 after completing a five-year term, is seriously examining the prospect of asking the Lokayukta registry to take up the issue with the high court.
During his stint as Lokayukta, Justice Shetty tried to restore the image of the institution which had been dented due to in-house corruption before he took charge. He initiated over 300 suo motu cases of public interest across state, which include survey of lakes and removal of encroachments, illegal sand mining and quarrying, infrastructure for schools and colleges, wages on par with prisoners to inmates of the beggars' rehabilitation centre, reforms in the central jail, irregularities in payment of salaries and other benefits to employees hired through outsourcing agencies, sanction of land and sites for wounded soldiers, widows of martyrs, illegal formation and allotment of sites by Shivamogga Urban Development Authority, etc.
Justice Shetty disposed of over 7,000 complaints and conducted 115 inquiries against errant public servants. He submitted reports in 77 cases, recommending to the government to take action against erring officials. Among these cases include substandard work at Vikasa Soudha.
"All this was possible with state government accepting my request to provide nine additional enquiry officers of district judge cadre, and support staff for completing inquiries expeditiously. The government has also provided additional space by letting out the Women and Child Development block for the Lokayukta institution," said Justice Shetty.
He was successful in ensuring an amendment to Section 53(A) of Panchayat Raj Act to disqualify a gram panchayat member for the next term, in case the member was found guilty of wrongdoing and a report was not submitted before the expiry of the member's current term.
Similarly, he recommended to the government to modify the law in the case of corporators, members of taluk and zilla panchayats too. While submitting details of assets and liabilities was extended to corporators, members of GPs, TPs and ZPs, apart from MLAs/MLCs, Justice Shetty persuaded the government to modify the law so that those details are submitted online to the Lokayukta too.
"I am satisfied with my work as Lokayukta. Though I was comfortable after retiring as HC judge and taking up practice as a senior Supreme Court advocate, I consider it a God-sent opportunity to serve this institution and the people of Karnataka. I received excellent cooperation in the discharge of my duties from officers within the Lokayukta as well as the government. The prevailing COVID situation has taken away almost two years. I could have done much more work if there was no pandemic," he said.
"An attempt was made on my life at my office and the case is under trial. I don’t have any regrets about serving in the post. But what I do regret is the government taking away the power of prosecuting errant public servants under Prevention of Corruption Act after the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Bureau," he told The New Indian Express.
He conceded that he could not persuade the high court to dispose of the matter challenging the constitution of the ACB before he demitted office. "I had a clear perception and road map in my mind to bring greater transparency in administration, while giving less scope for mal-administration. I honestly believe that if the Lokayukta is strengthened with powers of anti-corruption, in addition to others, it will automatically pave the way for quick and efficient administration," he said.