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Karnataka Lokayukta resigns: The end of a sordid saga of corruption

The resignation comes seven months after the former Karnataka chief justice's 49-year-old son, Ashwin Rao, was named as a key accused in an extortion racket operating in his father's office.

Written by Johnson T A |
December 8, 2015 5:31:59 pm
Justice Bhaskar Rao Justice Bhaskar Rao

A key chapter in the sordid saga of corruption at the highest level in Karnataka’s anti-corruption agency, the Lokayukta, concluded on Tuesday with the incumbent anti-corruption ombudsman Lokayukta Justice Y Bhaskar Rao stepping down after several months of refusal to do so.

The resignation comes seven months after the former Karnataka chief justice’s 49-year-old son, Ashwin Rao, was named as a key accused in an extortion racket operating in his father’s office. The resignation also comes nearly three months after Ashwin Rao was arrested on charges of extortion and conspiracy.

A Special Investigation Team of the Karnataka police which had investigated Justice Rao’s son has filed five chargesheets against him but has not named the judge himself in the racket.

While he had earlier stonewalled resignation demands by the public over his son’s involvement in the racket which targeted hundreds of public servants for bribes, Justice Bhaskar Rao resigned Tuesday without any official charges being brought against him by the SIT.

The resignation of Justice Rao comes close on the heels of a move by the opposition BJP and the JDS in Karnataka to impeach the retired judge over the corrupt activities of his son and a move by the ruling Congres party to impeach Justice Rao’s bete noire – the Upa Lokayukta, Justice Subhash Adi who was instrumental in ordering the investigations against his son.

Justice Rao is widely believed to have enjoyed the tacit support of the ruling Congress party in Karnataka in delaying his resignation despite a huge public uproar against him. The continuance of the judge in office over the last few months effectively ensured that several complaints against top functionaries in the Congress governement, including ministers, were put in cold storage.

The Congress move to impeach the Upa Lokayukta, despite the absence of serious charges, shortly after the opposition moved the impeachment of the Lokayukta is being seen as an effort by the Congress to appease Justice Rao and at the same time render the Lokayukta institution headless and ineffectual in taking up petitions and pleas against corruption following Justice Rao’s exit.

In the course of an undistinguished two-year tenure as the Lokayukta, Justice Rao played into the hands of the political system that is unanimously opposed to strong means for checking state corruption. By turning a blind eye to the extortion racket operated right under his nose by his son, Justice Rao in a way enabled the death of a strong Lokayukta institution in Karnataka that was envisaged in the Karnataka Lokayukta Act of 1984.

The Congress government is now keen on creating a new avatar for the Lokayukta along the lines of the Lokpal Bill envisaged by the UPA government in 2013.

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