BENGALURU:The corruption watchdog of Karnataka, the Lokayukta, is facing its worst ever crisis with the hallowed portals reportedly turning into a den of corruption. Charges of extortion, blackmail, shady deals, cheating, criminal conspiracy, scheming and conniving officers are now pouring out of the Pandora’s box after an year-long free run.
In the still obscure scenario, Lokayukta head Justice Y Bhaskar Rao is embroiled in an unsavoury situation with claims pointing at his own house to have harboured the ‘kingpin’. The lines are blurred, but if one goes by the already tumbled out version, then his son Ashwin Rao seems to have connived with officials within the anti-corruption agency, dubiously extorting money from corrupt government officials, including IAS officers.
The shady deals, it seems, were allegedly going on from both the office and residence of the Lokayukta. The recent exposé has not only ignited a public agitation for ouster of the Lokayukta but also has given the opposition parties another tool to hammer the ruling party so that a resolution is passed in the legislature to remove the Lokayukta. Both BJP and JD(S) recently submitted a notice to Chairman D H Shankaramurthy requesting a motion to vote out Justice Rao. They have decided to seek a similar motion in the Assembly on Monday.
“It is unfortunate. At least to uphold the dignity and integrity of the post he holds, the Lokayukta should have resigned. Even the public sentiments are against his continuation in office,” the Opposition said in their notice. Later, leader of the Opposition Jagadish Shettar and JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy accused Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of shielding the Lokayukta. Siddaramaiah’s refusal to order a CBI inquiry has given rise to suspicion, they alleged.
The Lokayukta institution today in Karnataka is a divided house with Upa Lokayukta Justice Subash Adi crossing swords with the Lokayukta over the issue—who or which agency will carry out the inquiry on the sorry state of affairs, as the state government constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the allegations while the popular demand was for CBI.
Howeverwith a petition filed by Ashwin, the Karnataka High Court said that both Lokayukta and the Upa Lokayukta shall not direct any in-house investigation and await the report of the SIT. The division bench of Justice N Kumar and Justice B Srinivase Gowda issued this direction and observed, “In the interest of natural justice and fair play, a probe be made into the issues by an outside agency.”
Ashwin, who claims he had no role in the extortion racket, has also been identified as the extortionist by complainant Krishna Murthy, executive engineer, Bengaluru Urban Zilla Panchayat who had been pressured for a bribe of Rs 1 crore. However, Ashwin believes someone is out to defame his father Lokayukta Rao. For the first time, Ashwin has come out to defend himself as the furore threatens to cost his father the Lokayukta’s job. “I think people who will benefit from my father’s resignation are behind these false allegations,” he added.
Ashwin, an electronics and communication engineer, is a resident of Hyderabad, and runs a car restoration business. He owns 25 vintage cars, including a 1928-model Chevrolet. “I come to Bengaluru once in two or three months to see my parents. I hardly know anyone here.”
Corruption has become a profitable, low-risk business, says Justice V S Malimath, former chief justice of the Kerala High Court. He adds, “The Lokayukta had become an inefficient organisation with loopholes. Damage has already been done and preventive measures are needed. The charges of corruption within the anti-corruption body would have far-reaching consequences. The investigation should have been handed over to more a competent authority like the CBI.”
Corruption and Charges
Ashwin Rao faces charges under Section 384, 419, 420 and 120(B) of the Indian Penal Code for extortion, cheating and criminal conspiracy.
Krishna Murthy, an executive engineer, alleged he had been called to the office of Lokayukta PRO Syed Riyaz and asked to pay `1 crore to escape a raid.
Superintendent of Police Sonia Narang, is said to have filed the FIR minutes before the High Court placed the case in the hands of a Special Investigation Team