BENGALURU: The prosecution of the accused in the extortion and corruption scam in Karnataka Lokayukta suffered a jolt with the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) K Janardhan resigning earlier this week, privately alleging lack of cooperation from investigators to arraign former Lokayukta Justice Y Bhaskar Rao. Janardhan sent his resignation to the Lokayukta Special Court without informing the Special Investigating Team (SIT).
Rao’s son Y Ashwin is accused of running an extortion ring in the Lokayukta, threatening officers with raids if they did not pay up. Most of the calls Ashwin made were from his father’s office in M S Buildings, Ambedkar Veedhi.
An interlocutory application seeking directions to the SIT to name Justice Rao as an accused has been posted for January 4. Appointed in 2013, he is the second successive Lokayukta to quit in controversial circumstances before completing the five-year tenure.
In May, an executive engineer accused his son of demanding `1 crore as bribe for not taking up a corruption case against him. In the wake of the allegation, Upa Lokayukta Justice Subhash Adi ordered Lokayukta police to probe the matter. Justice Rao's resignation comes after Opposition parties BJP and JD(S) initiated an impeachment motion against him in the Assembly. His resignation was accepted by Governor Vajubhai Vala last week.
The SIT had submitted chargesheets directly to the court, without providing copies to Janardhan. It ignored the names of officials whose interrogation he had suggested, a source said.
In a letter to the Chief Investigating Officer of the SIT, Janardhan had referred to application filed by industrialist Alam Pasha, seeking Rao’s arraignment. On December 7, the court had asked the SIT to file its comments on December 21, but the SIT did not care to respond.
Dayananda Nayak, counsel for Pasha, submitted there was enough evidence in the SIT chargesheets to proceed against Justice Rao. “But they have not arraigned Rao for reasons best known to them,” he said. Rao wanted to extend his leave when the scam came to light and had sent an orderly to the Lokayukta office to destroy evidence, Nayak argued.
Nayak provided names of witnesses who had recorded statements implicating Rao. Among them are then Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike commissioner Lakshminarayan and Shankar Bhat, legal adviser to Bangalore Development Authority Commissioner T Sham Bhat, both who had reportedly informed Rao about his son’s alleged extortion racket. They have told this before the SIT and it was part of the chargesheet.
Recording these submissions, the court extended till January 4 the judicial custody of accused Ashwin, Syed Riyaz, Ashok Kumar, M B Srinivasa Gowda, Shankare Gowda, V Bhaskar, Rajashekar, Narasimhamurthy, Hotte Krishna and Sadique Pasha. The hearing of bail applications of the four accused will be heard on January 4.
Meanwhile, an RTI plea revealed that Rao helped close a complaint against Koramangala police after they shielded a real estate agent, Eliyas, who is the brother of suspended and jailed Lokayukta PRO Syed Riyaz. Riyaz is one of the main accused in the bribery scandal.
The Lokayukta did not register the case formally, according to a letter from A C Vidhyadhar, the then Assistant Registrar of Enquiries-I, Lokayukta, to Lokayukta Registrar M S Balakrishna. Sources said Vidhyadhar’s letter could serve as crucial evidence for the SIT to name Rao as an accused. The SIT has already filed five chargesheets before the Lokayukta Special Court.
Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was in Bengaluru recently, told The Sunday Standard that “the SIT should arraign Bhaskar Rao if it has credible information against him”.
Scent of A scandal
■ Justice Rao was forced to quit as Karnataka Lokayukta on December 7. He came under criticism from various sections of society after his son was accused of running an extortion racket from the Lokayukta’s official residence and office.
■ Soft-spoken businessman from Hyderabad, Ashwin lived in his father’s official residence whenever he visited Bengaluru. The charge against him is that he along with his associates—including an officer in Lokayukta— extorted money from officers by threatening them of raids by Lokayukta police. Ashwin has denied the charges. He is in judicial custody.
■ As per an RTI plea, Rao helped close a complaint against Koramangala police after they shielded a real estate agent.