SUCH ALONG SEARCH

Govern­ment rec­om­mends ex-judge for lokayukta’s post. But he may run into the same hur­dle as his pre­de­ces­sor.

India Today - - NATION - By Sowmya Aji

Af­ter look­ing high and low for a “clean” judge, the BJP govern­ment in Kar­nataka has sug­gested the name of former Ker­ala High Court chief jus­tice S.R. Ban­nur­math for the high-pro­file post of lokayukta. The rec­om­men­da­tion, jailed former chief min­is­ter B.S. Yed­dyu­rappa’s choice, has raised eye­brows be­cause Jus­tice Ban­nur­math has the same prob­lem as the former lokayukta, Jus­tice Shivaraj Patil, who had to re­sign hur­riedly un­der a cloud.

Jus­tice Patil, who held the post for not even a month, had to quit af­ter a me­dia ex­pose that he had more than one plot in Ban­ga­lore city, vi­o­lat­ing the state’s hous­ing so­ci­ety by-laws. In ad­di­tion, he has a plot in the Ju­di­cial Em­ploy­ees Co­op­er­a­tive Hous­ing So­ci­ety ( JECHS), meant for em­ploy­ees, not judges. All al­lot­ments in JECHS were slammed in a Leg­isla­tive House Com­mit­tee re­port and are the sub­ject of a PIL in Supreme Court. The apex court has not given any de­ci­sion yet.

With the new anti-cor­rup­tion wind sweep­ing across the coun­try, Jus­tice Patil’s deputy, upalokayukta R. Gu­ru­ra­jan vol­un­tar­ily quit on Oc­to­ber 12, as his as­sets, al­ready in the pub­lic do­main on the lokayukta web­site, showed him own­ing a plot in JECHS be­sides other prop­erty in Ban­ga­lore.

Law Min­is­ter S. Suresh Ku­mar, ad­mit­ting a mis­take in ap­point­ing Jus­tice Patil with­out due dili­gence, told IN­DIA TO­DAY days prior to the an­nounce­ment of Jus­tice Ban­nur­math’s name: “We have to find a suit­able and ca­pa­ble judge who will up­hold the im­age of the post of the lokayukta. We will look closely at the judge’s im­age, stature and cred­i­bil­ity be­fore we make any ap­point­ments this time.’’

Po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency seems to have over­ruled this stand. Jus­tice Ban­nur­math is Yed­dyu­rappa’s nom­i­nee, and that seems to have been the over­rid­ing fac­tor, de­spite the judge, in his as­sets dec­la­ra­tion, stat­ing that he holds two prop­er­ties in Dhar­wad town, in­clud­ing one where a re­li­gious math be­long­ing to Yed­dyu­rappa’s com­mu­nity, Lin­gay­ats, is run. The clincher that should have made him in­el­i­gi­ble is that he also owns a house in the du­bi­ous JECHS.

Gov­er­nor H.R. Bhard­waj is ex­pected to take a call on the rec­om­men­da­tion af­ter Novem­ber 1. He had in­di­cated ear­lier that the post should be filled by a former Supreme Court judge, like former lokayukta Jus­tice San­tosh Hegde, whose records show com­plete per­sonal in­tegrity.

The post of the lokayukta, the state’s ver­sion of the lok­pal, has been va­cant now for over a month. Sev­eral judges from out­side the state were re­luc­tant to take up the post, as high­pro­file po­lit­i­cal cases, in­clud­ing bribery cases against Yed­dyu­rappa, are be­fore the lokayukta court. Chief Min­is­ter D.V. Sadananda Gowda and his Cabi­net have now given in to pres­sure from Yed­dyu­rappa to rec­om­mend a judge of his choice.

A se­nior Kar­nataka min­is­ter, com­ment­ing on the search and its fi­nal out­come, re­marked: “See how odd the sit­u­a­tion is. We can’t even find a clean judge for the lokayukta post. But we, the politi­cians, are ex­pected to be cor­rup­tion free.’’

Former min­is­ter P.G.R. Sind­hia, who was part of the Ra­makr­ishna Hegde coun­cil of min­is­ters that cleared and passed the Kar­nataka Lokayukta Act in 1984, has a more mod­er­ate view. “It is a pe­cu­liar sit­u­a­tion which the state never en­vis­aged when Kar­nataka passed the Lokayukta Bill. It is very un­for­tu­nate that so many of these judges are un­der a cloud,’’ he told IN­DIA TO­DAY.

The Kar­nataka Lokayukta Act (1984) was a land­mark leg­is­la­tion that brought the post of chief min­is­ter un­der lokayukta purview, with­out any of the dis­cus­sion of the kind is tak­ing place over bring­ing the Prime Min­is­ter’s post un­der the lok­pal. “Even then, Hegde brought a judge, Jus­tice A.D. Koshal from Pun­jab, from out­side to be the first lokayukta,’’ re­calls a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst.

Kar­nataka’s at­tor­ney gen­eral had ear­lier been asked to draw up a list of all former Supreme Court and high court chief jus­tices from across the coun­try in the hope of find­ing one who might take up the job.

KPN

EX-KARNATAKALOKAYUKTASHIVARAJ PATIL (RIGHT) WITH EX-UPALOKAYUKTAR. GU­RU­RA­JAN

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