The state government has ordered the Department of Personnel and Administration Reforms (DPAR) to provide necessary staff and facilities to anti-corruption watchdog Lokayukta, Justice Minister JC Madhuswamy said on Thursday.
The development comes nearly a fortnight after Karnataka’s high court abolished the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), established in 2016 by the Congress government then led by Siddaramaiah, which stripped much of Lokayukta’s powers. The court also ordered the government to transfer all cases with ACB to Lokayukta.
Madhuswamy, while briefing the media after Thursday’s state cabinet meeting, said the government was committed to strengthening Lokayukta.
He said the government will investigate which cases that were previously with ACB to hand over to Lokayukta. The ACB reports directly to the Chief Minister.
“We made the decision to strengthen Lokayukta gradually. So far, the Lokayukta has demanded accountability and prosecution and we have delivered. We have given instructions to the department (DPAR) to meet all their requirements. It shouldn’t feel like we haven’t given them personnel or other requirements and we’re weakening the Lokayukta,” Madhuswamy said.
The HC order stated: “It is nothing but a transgression by an executive administrative order to usurp the powers of the Lokayukta. The very constitution of ACB by the government is to protect corrupt politicians, ministers and officers from the watchful eyes of Lokayukta and this government weakens the institution of Lokayukta to protect such people from prosecution among others under the provisions of the PC law (prevention of corruption)”.
In its recommendation, the HC said that the police wing of Lokayukta should be strengthened by appointing and delegating honest people with a proven track record of integrity and fairness, with all those working in the ACB to be transferred or delegated to the Lokayukta.
Madhuswamy said, “We are studying in detail what the court said and what to do with business. The HC has given some guidelines. He said there had been no new cases under ACB and soon all cases could be registered under Lokayukta.
The Minister said that no amendments would be needed to strengthen the Lokayukta and that the HC had already abolished the ACB.
A few days ago, a private individual approached the Supreme Court over the abolition of the ACB, which Madhuswamy said did not concern the government as it decided not to appeal the order. of HC. He said it was in the BJP manifesto to abolish the ACB and he will act accordingly.
Since 2016, there have been accusations that successive governments began to whittle away the powers of Lokayukta and hand them over to the ACB which was criticized by activists and even the BJP, then in opposition. The BJP, in its 2018 election manifesto, said it would abolish the ACB and empower the Lokayukta within 24 hours of taking office.