Karnataka Lokayukta's son features in SIT's 2nd charge-sheet
The Karnataka police's Special Investigation Team (SIT) named Ashwin Rao (son of Lokayukta Justice Bhaskar Rao), again in the 2nd charge-sheet in the Lokayukta scam. Lokayukta's PR officer Syed Riyazathullah and Ashwin were booked for attempting to wrench almost Rs.20 lakh from an executive engineer in the Karnataka irrigation department- P B Channabasapa. The charge-sheet also names 2 other people involved
On 11 May, Superintendent of Police Sonia Narang wrote a letter to registrar opening the pandora's box for Lokayukta office. She was approached by an engineer MN Krishnamurthy, who claimed that he had been getting Rs.1 crore extortion threats from the Lokayukta office. He was threatened that a case of disproportionate assets would be mounted, his house raided if he did not pay up.
The Karnataka Lokayukta rose to great esteem under Justice Santosh Hegde between 2006 and 2011; it was efficient in reducing corruption, famously publishing a report on the Karnataka mining scandal that forced out B S Yeddyurappa from the CM's post in August 2011.
Following the complaint lodged by Narang and the request for an enquiry into the Lokayukta, the staff was put under intensive scrutiny. Lokayukta-justice Y Bhaskar Rao met with police officials and decided to bring in a number of changes in the institution to check issues regarding in-house corruption. Telephone records of suspicious officials or staffers would be tracked; office CCTV surveillance would be enhanced.
As the investigation by Narang's police continued, the faces of those involved became clearer. It began to seem that the Justice Rao's son, Ashwin Rao, was also a part of the gang which had extorted Rs.130 crore from nearly 200 babus in the past six months. Instead of acting on these complaints or stepping down, Justice Rao tried to stall investigations.
As allegations grew against Ashwin Rao, Justice Rao defended him and said that his son could not be involved in this scam. The justice's deputy Subhash Adi stepped in to order a probe against Rao by the Lokayukta police. However, taking advantage of his temporary absence, Justice Rao held a press conference, announcing that the case would be transferred to Chandrasekhar, joint commissioner, CCB.
However, Chandrashekhar rejected the case, saying that he could not investigate it because his own father-in-law was under investigation for illegal land dealings. The Lokayukta police, taking over, acted quickly, registering a case of corruption, cheating and criminal conspiracy against 4 people including Ashwin Rao, on 1 July. The FIR was filed under Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The Special Investigation Team handling the case finally made its first arrest- a realtor linked to Ashwin Rao. Ashok Kumar, the arrested, ran a real estate firm and was accused for allegedly making the call to M N Krishnamurthy. Meanwhile, Ashwin Rao, who had approached the High Court to request a stay order on the FIR, was told to wait for the SIT report.
With the arrest of a photo journalist cum RTI activist, Rajashekhar, the number of arrests by SIT in this case climbed to 8. Apparently, Rajashekhar was a close associate of Bhaskar, who had already been arrested. Rajashekhar joined the arrested Lokayukta PRO Syed Riyazathullah and journalist M B Sreenivasa Gowda. Ashwin Rao had not yet been arrested, but has 3 cases registered against him.
The SIT probing the case filed a chargesheet before the Lokayukta court against the accused in the extortion-scam. The accused are Syed Riaz, Ashok Kumar, Ashwin Rao, RTI activist V Bhaskar and two private Kannada TV channel journalists Shankare Gowda and Srinivas Gowda. Those of the arrested who had been granted bail on September 8, had a stay order imposed on the bail order.