A historic move to impeach Karnataka’s Lokayukta Justice Bhaskar Rao was initiated on Monday in the state legislature despite the ruling Congress party supporting the move only in spirit and deciding against joining the opposition BJP and Janata Dal (Secular) parties in signing an impeachment petition.
Separate petitions seeking the removal of the Lokayukta were presented under the Karnataka Lokayukta (Amendment) Act 2015 by 46 BJP MLAs and 23 JD(S) MLAs in the legislative assembly, and formally accepted by the Speaker on Monday, setting in motion the process of impeachment of Lokayukta Justice Bhaskar Rao.
The BJP and JD(S) have sought the removal of the former Chief Justice of Karnataka as the Lokayukta on the grounds of “incompetence” and “misconduct” in light of the arrest and chargesheeting of his son Ashwin Rao for using the Lokayukta’s office to run an extortion racket.
The Congress party, which had on Friday indicated its legislators would also petition the Speaker for removal of the Lokayukta, desisted from doing so on Monday, though Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Law Minister T B Jayachandra said the move has the support of the Congress party.
Congress leader and former Speaker Ramesh Kumar requested Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa to ensure that the motion has the support of the entire House. The Speaker said that he was accepting the motion despite the Congress not supporting it.
The Speaker, however, said the motion would be sent to the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court for investigation of the charges against Justice Rao only after sufficient discussion and analysis of evidence against him.
A probe by a Special Investigation Team of the Karnataka Police ordered by the Congress government has not named Justice Rao in the four chargesheets filed so far against his son Ashwin for running an extortion racket. The Lokayukta will be precluded from performing his duties once the motion is sent to the Chief Justice for investigation.
Meanwhile, the Congress is going about trying to gather signatures of MLAs to seek the impeachment of Upa Lokayukta Justice Subhash Adi for allegedly shielding a relative from corruption charges. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has also indicated that the party may consider removal of the Upa Lokayukta.
The Congress move is widely believed to be an attempt to ensure that Justice Adi does not become all powerful in light of the removal of Justice Rao. It was the Upa Lokayukta’s firm stand on investigating Justice Rao’s son for corruption that resulted in the unravelling of a deep-rooted extortion racket in the Lokayukta that was targeting dozens of public servants for alleged corruption in the state.