Karnataka Lokayukta (ombudsman) and the Act that set up the
institution have become the flavour of India's anti-graft summer
Justifiably so, as Karnataka was the first state in India to set
up Lokayukta through legislation way back in 1984. The first
Lokayukta, A.D. Kaushal, a retired judge of the Supreme Court,
was, however, appointed in 1986.
The state also gave India its first chief vigilance commissioner (CVC)
in 1964, Nittor Srinivasa Rau, who had retired as chief justice of
the then Mysore high court.
The CVC, however, did not make headlines for anti-graft measures
under Rau. The office has, in fact, rarely been in the news for
its drive against graft all these years.
For that matter, many in India would have come to know about CVC's
existence only recently following the controversy over appointment
of former Kerala-cadre IAS officer P.J. Thomas to the post. He was
forced to quit after the Supreme Court ruled his appointment "non
Similarly, the Karnataka Lokayukta was hardly heard of till 2001
though the first Lokayukta was appointed in 1986.
The Karnataka Lokayukta Act of 1984 was an ambitious one as it
brought the chief minister, the highest public executive in the
state, under its scanner.
The Act gave powers to the Lokayukta to initiate action against
the chief minister on its own (suo motu).
However, within six months of appointment of the first Lokayukta,
the Karnataka government diluted the powers of the office, taking
the chief minister out of its ambit and also doing away with the "suo
motu" powers to launch investigation or action against ministers
and senior officials.
The dilution of powers meant that the Lokayukta could only
investigate allegations against the office of the chief minister,
but not initiate action on its own.
It had powers to act on its own to tackle corruption only at lower
levels of bureaucracy, namely, employees drawing a monthly salary
of Rs.20,000 and below.
For the rest it had to obtain government permission.
The Karnataka Lokayukta was almost dormant till July 2001 when
Nanje Gowda Venkatachala or N. Venkatachala, a retired judge of
the Supreme Court, was appointed the fourth Lokayukta.
He launched highly publicised raids on government offices, caught
bribe-taking officials red-handed and berated the staff if found
sloppy in their work.
He also relentlessly sought more powers for the Lokayukta,
including the right to initiate action on its own against all
public servants starting with the chief minister.
As his term was ending in 2006, there was a public demand to give
him another term. Venkatachala, by then 76, too said he was ready
The Janata Dal-Secular and the Bharatiya Janata Party coalition
government at that time chose Nitte Santosh Hegde (N. Santosh
Hegde), also a retired judge of the Supreme Court, as the new
Lokayukta as there was no provision in the Act for a second term.
Hegde took over in August 2006 by when illegal mining had become
the hottest issue in Karnataka.
In July 2006 mining baron and BJP legislator G. Janardhana Reddy
(now tourism minister) had accused the then chief minister H.D.
Kumaraswamy of the JD-S of taking Rs.150 crore bribe from
mine-owners to allow illegal mining.
Hegde, unlike his predecessor Venkatachala, did not lead the
raids. He, however, continued the practice of giving wide
publicity to the raids.
He also kept up pressure on the government to grant more powers
and succeeded to some extent after he quit in June 2010 accusing
the BJP government of non-cooperation in fighting corruption.
Hegde, however, withdrew the resignation following an appeal by
senior BJP leader L.K Advani.
But his resignation yielded some positive results as Chief
Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa's government empowered the Lokayukta to
investigate on his own all public servants, including chief
secretary, the head of the state civil service.
The government also granted, with a rider, powers to the Lokayukta
to investigate complaints against the chief minister, ministers,
law makers and heads of government corporations, boards and
The complaint has to be accompanied by an affidavit by the
Hegde's term ends in August by when he would have submitted his
final report on illegal mining in Karnataka which he said "will be
Hegde, who turns 71 in June, now faces a major test of his
not-so-happy experience as Lokayukta - making the proposed Lokpal
Bill foolproof to fight graft at the national level, with adequate
powers to the institution to curb corruption effectively.
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