BENGALURU:For the first time in Karnataka, perhaps in the country, a state legislature has set in motion a process to remove Lokayukta Justice Y Bhaskar Rao, a former High Court Chief Justice heading the state’s anti- corruption institution.
Earlier this week, Assembly Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa accepted the Opposition BJP and JD(S) legislators’ petitions, seeking Justice Rao’s removal. The subject will be placed before the House in the ongoing Winter Session of the Karnataka legislature.
Once the House formally accepts the motion, which it is most likely to do, the Speaker will write to Karnataka High Court Chief Justice, asking for constitution of a three-member committee which will comprise two retired judges. While the committee will look into the allegations, the House after accepting the motion can immediately place the Lokayukta under suspension. From over three months, Justice Rao has been on leave.
“I have received petitions from BJP and JD(S),” said the Speaker. After receiving the petitions, Thimmappa had summoned Special Investigation Team (SIT) chief Kamal Pant and apprised himself of the probe. Currently, all the accused in the case, including Justice Rao’s son Y Ashwin, his associates, including suspended PRO Syed Riyaz, realtor Ashok Kumar, TV journalist Srinivasa Gowda and RTI activist Shankare Gowda are in judicial custody.
Meanwhile, the SIT has filed chargesheets in the courts. After the Lokayukta son’s arrest, many organsiations, including political parties, had demanded his resignation and even his removal. Even Karnataka Lokayukta Act was amended to enable the legislature to remove the Lokayukta. Though the Act was amended and legislators were talking about impeaching Justice Rao, many were not sure if they would take it to its logical conclusion. “Legislature brought a new law in regard to impeachment of Lokayukta. This law though passed sometime in August 2015 has never been utilised for investigating Lokayukta till date,” said retired SC Judge and former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde.
The legislators, however, maintain that they are serious and committed to removing the Lokayukta. “There is a perception that political parties are dilly-dallying over the action to be taken against Lokayukta. That is not correct, we are all united to remove Justice Rao from the post,” said Opposition Leader in the Assembly Jagadish Shettar of BJP.
“He should have resigned on moral grounds, but he has not done so. So we are all committed to ensuring that he is removed from the post,” he added. Speaking on behalf of his party MLAs, YSV Datta of JD(S) said after serious allegations of corruption were made, Justice Rao should have resigned, but by going on leave he has betrayed the trust of the society.
Justice Hegde, during whose tenure as Lokayukta many politicians and senior officers were booked under Prevention of Corruption Act, has also appealed for saving the institution from total denigration. “There is no way this state can fight corruption and maladministration unless by strengthening and cleansing it when required. This is the time to do so,” he added.
Date With Law
July 17: Lokayukta Registrar H R Deshpande resigns after being accused of not giving CCTV footage to SIT
July 21: SIT arrests Ashok Kumar, realtor, in connection with the alleged extortion
July 22: SIT arrests TV journalist Srinivasa Gowda, and his associate, RTI
activist Shankare Gowda.
July 26: Lokayukya PRO Syed Riyaz arrested from a clinic in Koramangala.
July 27: Lokayukta’s son Ashwin Yerabati arrested from his house in Hyderabad. Lokayukta goes on long leave.
July 30: Amendments to sack the Lokayukta
Nov 16: BJP and JD(S) legislators give petitions to Assembly Speaker and Council Chairman, seeking Lokayukta’s removal
Nov 19: SIT Chief Kamal Pant meets Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa