Newly created Anti-corruption bureau partially stayed by Karnataka HC
The Karnataka HC partially stayed the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). The HC said that the corruption cases being examined by the state Lokayukta and the ones whose access was sought by ACB shouldn't be transferred. The court's decision came despite the state government's assurance that the creation of ACB was to aid in the speedy disposal of pending cases and would not affect the Lokayukta.
Karnataka was the first Indian state to formulate an independent Lokayukta in 1984 to readdress public grievances of corruption. Karnataka Lokayukta had powers to even investigate legislators and ministers in the event of corruption. Ramakrishna Hegde (then CM) brought the State Vigilance Commission which was headed by a police officer, under the Lokayukta purview as the Commission was not working to the government's satisfaction.
The Karnataka Lokayukta was considered "as the strongest Lokayukta in the country".
The Karnataka Lokayukta Act (KLA) and the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) were the two legislations at work in Karnataka. The KLA gave the Lokayukta authority to inquire into complaints against public servants, but it couldn't launch criminal investigations. The PCA vested police officials with authority to investigate cases of corruption. While acting under PCA, police had to operate independently of the Lokayukta.
The dual responsibility of the Lokayukta police wing included it assisting the Lokayukta under section 15(1) of the KLA and investigating Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act offences under Section 17 of the PC Act.
The state government has created an Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), headed by a police officer reporting to the government with the stated objective of bringing about greater transparency. With the formulation of this new institution, the ACB will be the legal authority to examine offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, critics see this as a move to weaken the Lokayukta.
The ACB will have 322 police members, headed by an "ADGP-rank police officer, 1 Inspector-General of Police, 10 superintendents of police, 35 deputy superintendents of police, 75 police inspectors and 200 head constables".
The move to create ACB was lambasted by former Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde who has called it a "systematic destruction of the institution by the political class to protect themselves." Hegde said that the change now permits the ACB to report to the home minister, who in turn comes under the CM which makes the Lokayukta toothless.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah rejected the opposition's demand for withdrawing the newly formed Anti-Corruption Bureau, maintaining that there was no intention to weaken the Lokayukta. However, Siddaramaiah said he was willing to discuss ways to strengthen the Lokayukta institution with the opposition. The BJP said they would take their opposition outside the house, to ensure smooth parliamentary proceedings to tackle issues in the state.