Four members of civil society, represented by Supreme Court advocate KV Dhananjay, have filed a writ petition in the Karnataka high court praying that a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation be started against the Lokayukta of Karnataka, Y Bhaskar Rao and his son Ashwin Y Rao, who are being investigated for corruption charges by the Lokayukta’s internal police force.
The younger Rao stands accused of extorting a bribe from another government official by threatening him with an anti-corruption raid, with the petitioners – the Karnataka NGO Samaj Parivartana Samudaya, social activist Deepak CN, Bangalore University’s Prof Vishnu Kamat, and the Commitee on Judicial Accountability’s Ganesh Koundinya – demanding for the court to “direct an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged extortion and corruption” and for the CBI to “submit periodic status reports” to the court.
The petition’s synopsis alleged:
This father-son duo has shaken the confidence of the public in the due administration of the anti-corruption law in Karnataka. The only question before this Hon’ble Court today is whether this father-son duo and their conspirators should not be impartially investigated and criminally prosecuted – in order to restore the deteriorating rule of law in the State of Karnataka.
… This is a public interest litigation and this very petition would have been unnecessary had only any other person come to this Hon’ble Court or this Hon’ble Court had itself taken suo- moto cognizance of the alarming corruption by this father-son duo – made public knowledge by disturbing reports in the media.
Yesterday, an FIR was registered by the Lokayukta’s police wing against the father and son under Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act section 8 and the IPC for extortion, cheating by impersonation and criminal conspiracy, reported the Indian Express.
However, the petition argued that an investigation by the Lokayukta’s own police wing would not “stand the test of independence, impartiality or fearlessness in the eye of the law. Hence, the inevitable need for a CBI investigation in this case”.
The synopsis added:
In terms of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984, Y.Bhaskar Rao wields substantial authority over diverse class of public servants who are employed in connection with the affairs of the Karnataka Government. Therefore, any criminal investigation by any person who reports to the State Government or who is an employee of the State Government runs every risk of inviting the wrath of Y.Bhaskar Rao and retribution by his conspirators within the Lokayukta.
Further, in terms of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984 a majority of two-thirds of the State Legislature is necessary to impeach and dislodge a Lokayukta from his office. Until then, Y.Bhaskar Rao would continue to remain in his office. Even the possibility of his arrest and subsequent bail – even if occasioned by an investigation by persons subject to his wrath or retribution – would not have the effect of dislodging Y.Bhaskar Rao from his office. This aspect alone would render it inevitable for this Hon’ble Court to entrust the investigation against the Lokayukta’s son to the Central Bureau of Investigation – to eliminate the risk of failure and miscarriage of justice.
Ordinarily, in terms of Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 under which statute the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) came to be established by the Central Government, the State Government may request the CBI to investigate and prosecute any criminal offence within its territory. Effectively, this power is vested and exercised by the Cabinet in the State Government. The Chief Minister, Sri K.Siddaramaiah is the chairperson of the Cabinet and is himself facing the possibility of a criminal investigation by the Lokayukta on the extremely serious 500 acres Arkavathy Denotification corruption scandal. The Home Minister of Karnataka, Sri K.J.George is already the subject of a serious enquiry before the Lokayukta on a complaint made by the first petitioner, Samaj Parivartana Samudaya – the charge is of a plainly evident case of criminal conspiracy to defraud the State Government of valuable land through a web of corruption. Sri T.B.Jayachandra, the law minister is facing a trial in the Lokayukta Special Court on a charge of corruption and any further investigation in that case would be conducted by the Lokayukta. Sri D.K.Shivakumar, the minister for energy resources in the State is the subject of several criminal enquiries and investigation, some on charge of never-before-seen-scale of corruption, in the Lokayukta and is the accused in a trial in the Lokayukta Special Court. Some of the underlying complaints against him were made by the first petitioner, Samaj Parivartana Samudaya. Minister for food supplies, Sri Dinesh Gundu Rao is facing serious enquiry before the Lokayukta on charges of land encroachment and defrauding a Government company, among others. Therefore, the Cabinet of Karnataka is unlikely to take any decision to the dislike of Y.Bhaskar Rao.
In fact, the petitioners have learnt that the Government of Karnataka has entrusted the criminal investigation against Ashwin Y. to a hotchpotch of officers handpicked by Y.Bhaskar Rao – the evidence of this dictate is to be readily seen from the fact that this hotchpotch of persons was not even a ‘police’ and therefore, incompetent to conduct any criminal investigation when it was so entrusted. No responsible Government would entrust an extremely serious investigation to a random person who is not even a police person and later clothe him with police power – such an act is unheard of in this country.