With the Congress government in Karnataka moving to introduce a new Lokayukta Bill modelled on the central Lokpal Bill in the state legislature on Monday, the incumbent state Lokayukta Justice Bhaskar Rao on Sunday called upon Governor H R Bhardwaj to express concern over certain clauses proposed in the new Act which are considered detrimental to the functioning of the institution of the anti-corruption ombudsman.
The chief concern of the Lokayukta is with respect to a clause that vests power to conduct raids and investigate corrupt officials in a nine-member panel — with representation of two serving and two former IAS officers, a reservation for SC/ST candidates, apart from four members of the judiciary — instead of the existing system where a senior police officer of the rank of Additional Director General of Police decides the course of action as mandated in the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988.
Under the proposed new law action can be initiated against complaints of corruption only if three members of the nine-member panel give their assent and this is dilution of the existing system that is working well, sources said following the Sunday meeting. “This is not modelled on the central Lokpal law,’’ the sources said.
Eminent personalities like former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde have in recent times stated that the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984 is an effective law and that the only intervention required is according powers to the Lokayukta to proceed with prosecution of any corrupt government official without requiring government sanction.
The Siddaramaiah government’s move to introduce the new Lokayukta Act will result in a lot of legal controversies that will require the intervention of the judiciary at some point, sources said.
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Several existing laws — like section 36 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and section 17 of the Prevention of Corruption Act — clearly state that powers for any investigation, including corruption, are only vested with the police or empowered to act like police officers. Also, existing laws allow police officers in any police station to register corruption cases and proceed with the investigation. “There are many contradictions over jurisdiction if the new law envisages a special panel to clear investigations. The existing Karnataka Lokayukta act is a strong one already. It allows the Lokayukta to investigate any case against officials about the rank of deputy commissioners,’’ sources said.
The Karnataka Lokayukta has in recent years investigated cases of corruption against top officials including chief ministers and several other officials on the basis of complaints lodged with the Lokayukta police or petitions placed before it.
The Karnataka government has stated that the new law will be enacted only after it is discussed thoroughly in both houses of the state legislature.