The turf war between the Lokayukta and the Anti-Corruption Bureau in Karnataka will soon be settled by the Karnataka High Court. The High Court will be deciding on two related issues - first, the legality of the Anti-Corruption Bureau constituted in 2016 by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government and second, the restoration of the Lolayukta's powers to investigate Prevention of Corruption cases against top government officials.
The formation of the Anti-Corruption Bureau was challenged by four private petitioners, who claim that the government order dated March 14, 2016 had curtailed the powers of the Lokayukta. It transferred cases under the Prevention of Corruption Acts to the newly-formed Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Lokayukta was asked to investigate only cases of misconduct against officers. The Lokayukta has come in support of the petitioners.
"We hope that the court will restore our power of investigation and the creation of the Anti-Corruption Bureau would be withdrawn," said Venkatesh S Arbatti, special public prosecutor representing the Lokayukta.
The Karnataka High Court had made the Lokayukta and the Anti-Corruption Bureau the respondents in the case.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau is headed by a police officer of the additional director general of police level. The police wing of the Lokayukta is also headed by a police officer of the same level.
The Janata Dal (Secular), which is running a coalition government in the state along with the Congress, had promised in its manifesto that it would empower the Lokayukta if voted to power. However, no steps were taken in that direction. Instead, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) recently appointed a police officer as the head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
He is now facing flak from the Opposition BJP.
"Chief Minister Kumaraswamy didn't keep his promise. We will fight it out till the Lokayukta's powers are restored," said former chief minister and senior BJP leader Jagadish Shettar.
The Congress is playing it safe. "Let us wait for the High Court's verdict," said Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Dinesh Gundu Rao.
The Karnataka Lokayukta is a statutory body and before the alleged curtailing of its powers in 2016, it had the power to prosecute. On the other hand, the Anti-Corruption Bureau reports to the chief secretary who in turn reports to the chief minister
It must be remembered that it was the Lokayukta which had sent BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa to jail in October 2011 and caused his removal as Karnataka chief minister.