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Lok Ayukta quits in Karnataka: BJP govt is reinstating corrupt officers

After battling corruption in the government for nearly four years,Justice N Santhosh Hegde today resigned as Karnataka Lok Ayukta...

Written by Johnson TA | Bangalore |
June 24, 2010 12:57:40 am

After battling corruption in the government for nearly four years,Justice N Santhosh Hegde today resigned as Karnataka Lok Ayukta in frustration over the BJP government’s alleged apathy towards corruption and illegal mining of iron ore in the state.

Hegde submitted his resignation to Governor H R Bhardwaj on the eve of the second anniversary celebrations of the B S Yeddyurappa-led government.

Addressing a press conference after quitting the post,Hegde pointed to what he called continued belittlement of the office of the Lok Ayukta by the Yeddyurappa government; reinstatement of corrupt officers caught by Lok Ayukta police despite assurances to the contrary by the Chief Minister himself; pendency of over 8,000 cases due to delays in appointing a Upa Lok Ayukta; and,harassment of officers fighting corruption.

The final straw was the mysterious disappearance of nearly five lakh ton of iron ore,valued at nearly Rs 200 crore and seized in February by forest authorities at the state-run Belikeri port after Lok Ayukta investigations revealed that the ore was transported illegally from Bellary without permits.

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A minister in the BJP government,identified by sources as Ports Minister Krishna Palemar,wrote to the Chief Secretary on June 2,1 seeking suspension of the Deputy Conservator of Forests who had made the original seizure — and reported the recent disappearance of the seized ore — on frivolous grounds like failing to attend a meeting, Hegde said.

The Karnataka government,he alleged,was targeting officers aiding the Lok Ayukta in its battle against corruption.

According to the Lok Ayukta,investigations have revealed that as much as 30 lakh tons of iron ore,valued at Rs 1,200 crore,have been exported illegally from Belikeri and Karwar ports in Karnataka in 2009-10 alone.

Hegde is credited with stemming illegal mining to some extent in Karnataka through an investigation into the process of illegal mining of iron ore and sand. The ongoing probe has yielded one major report so far with a series of partially fulfilled recommendations to the government to plug administrative loopholes that allow illegal mining to flourish.

A second report on illegal mining is in the offing and is expected to look at aspects like illegal export of iron ore,the financial routing of money from illegal exports. The second report is expected to be furnished to the government by August 31 when Hegde is expected to leave office. After announcing his resignation,Hegde said he would stay on till August 31 to complete unfinished reports.

“This is not an emotional decision,it is part of a cumulative effect of government indifference,” Hegde said,describing the repeated reinstatement of officers caught for corruption as “slaps in the face of the Lok Ayukta”.

“This is what is done to the Lok Ayukta after the Chief Minister himself gives assurances that no suspended officer will be re-instated without consulting the Lok Ayukta police,” Hegde said. “Once you know that you are not wanted,you should not wait for some more reasons,” he said. “I feel useless,I feel helpless. Merely catching people for corruption does not solve anything,” he said.

Asked if he was fleeing the fight and doing injustice to the people of Karnataka,Hegde said “justice and injustice can be viewed differently by two different people.”

“If I continue as Lok Ayukta and can do nothing for the people,is that justice? If the government realizes why I am doing this,may be my successor will be able to run a better institution,” he said.

Justice Hegde,who was appointed for a five year term in 2006 during the rule of H D Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal Secular,denied his decision to quit on the eve of the grand anniversary celebrations of the BJP was politically motivated.

“I need support to fight corruption because people in politics are not bothered about corruption,” he said.

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First published on: 24-06-2010 at 12:57:40 am

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