Bengaluru: Bill allowing ouster of Lokayukta passed in Karnataka

Bengaluru, July 31 (IANS) The Karnataka legislature on Friday passed an amendment bill to remove the state Lokayukta (ombdusman) if found guilty of misconduct or incapacity.

“The Karnataka Lokayukta (amendment) bill will be sent to the governor (Vajubhai Vala) for his assent soon,” state Law Minister T.B. Jayachandra told reporters after the state legislative council adopted the bill that was earlier passed by the assembly on Thursday.

The state government tabled the bill on July 24 to amend the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984 to curtail the anti-corruption body’s powers and make its ombudsman’s removal easier through legislative and judiciary process.

Amendment to the three-decades-old Act necessitated after the opposition BJP and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) wrote to the assembly speaker (Kagodu Thimmappa) for the removal of Lokayukta Justice V. Bhaskar Rao for the alleged involvement of his son (Ashwin Rao) in rupees one crore bribe charge.

As section 6 of the Act does not empower the state government or the legislature to remove the Lokayukta and influence it in dealing with graft cases, opposition and ruling Congress members wanted to amend the law for restricting the institution from checking administrative and executive lapses.

“The amendment to the Act enables the legislature to pass a motion for the Lokayukta’s removal with two-third majority if the ombudsman is found guilty of misconduct or incapacity by the Karnataka High Court chief justice or a nominated judge,” Jayachandra said on the occasion.

Provisions like the legislature can take up Lokayukta’s ouster even if one-third of the elected or nominated lawmakers demand it.

“Though some members wanted the Act to be repealed, which will result in abolition of the institution itself, it was not accepted as majority said such an act would negate the very purpose for which it was instituted – to fight corruption in public service and society at large,” Jayachandra pointed out.

A Special Investigation Team (SIT), set up on June 30 by the state government to probe the bribery and corruption charges against Ashwin and some Lokayukta officials, arrested Ashwin in Hyderabad on July 27, Lokayukta joint commissioner Syed Riaz on July 26, and their three accomplices last week.

In a related development, a local court earlier on Friday extended police custody of the three accomplices “Ashok Kumar, Shankare Gowda and Srinivasa Gowda for interrogation by the SIT sleuths. Till August 3 for Kumar and 14 days for other two accomplices.

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