K'taka lokayukta: Is it jinxed or is the vacancy a ploy to shut the office down?

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The Karnataka lokayukta, once the most powerful institutions in the country, is headless. When the government of Karnataka finally arrived at a consensus and suggested the name of Justice Vishwanath Shetty, it was shot down by Governor Vaju Vala citing allegations and complaints.

This is the second time in the past year that the governor is shooting down a proposal sent by the government. The last time it was Justice S R Nayak whose name was not cleared by the governor.

Is the K'taka lokayukta jinxed?

The state lokayukta after Justices N Venkatachala and Santhosh Hegde has seen an uphill ride. No lokayukta after them has completed the term. After Justice Hegde retired, the government appointed Justice Shivraj Patil to the post. However, he too stepped down before completing his term.

He was replaced by Justice Bhaskar Rao who was forced to step down amidst allegations of corruption; Justice Rao's son had been accused of running an extortion racket from the lokayukta's residence. The investigators said that Justice Rao had allegedly looked the other way.

Once these allegations surfaced, Justice Rao went on long leave. Crucial files that needed expeditious clearing were left pending and investigations had come to grinding halt. Justice Rao who was out of office for nearly six months was accused of bringing the administration to a full stop.

With such a chequered history behind them, the Karnataka government will now have to look for another judge. The rules mandate for a person to be Lokayukta he should have been either a Supreme Court judge, a chief justice of a high court or at least put in ten years of service in a high court. It is surprising that the government is unable to find a suitable candidate to fill up the all important post which deals with cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

If the government is unable to find a candidate from Karnataka, then there is nothing that prevents them from looking outside. It may be recalled that Justice Vikramjit Sen who was the chief justice of the Karnataka high court was one candidate that the government was interested in.

Justice Sen who had at first seemed reluctant was finally convinced by the law minister of Karnataka to take up the post. But when Justice Sen consented the government changed its mind and chose Justice S R Nayak instead.

The absence of a Lokayukta is hurting cases under the PC act. The Lokayukta was a hope for lakhs of people from the state who would approach the institution to complain against the corrupt. There is an upalokayukta, no doubt, but the powers are limited. When it comes to cases against the high and mighty such as those in the state cabinet or the chief minister himself, it becomes mandatory to have a Lokayukta in place. Is the Karnataka government even interested or is it trying to make true all those allegations of how it wanted to shut down the Lokayukta once and for all.

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