Advocates association says he too has been allotted housing site illegally

With Y. Bhaskar Rao set to be anointed the next Lokayukta by the Governor on Thursday, the office of the anti-corruption ombudsman is once again at the centre of a controversy.

The appointment of Mr. Rao, who was Chief Justice of the High Court of Karnataka between January 17, 1999 and June 26, 2000, has been opposed by the Advocates Association, Bangalore, on the grounds that he “doesn’t speak Kannada and is too old for the job”.

Significantly, the association has also opposed his appointment on the grounds that he too is involved in a land scam as it was in the case of the previous Lokayukta Shivraj V. Patil and the subsequent nominees S.R. Bannurmath and R.V. Raveendran. Documents secured by The Hindu show that on November 5, 1999 Mr. Rao was allotted a 5,400 sq ft plot (number 1253) at a residential layout near Yelahanka formed by the Judicial Department Employees House Building Cooperative Society. The plot was allotted to him for Rs. 1,86,117 or Rs. 34.46 per sq ft. The irregularity in this allotment was not too different from those arising out of allotments made to Mr. Patil, Mr. Bannurmath and Mr. Raveendran.

All these transactions violate Clause 10 (B) of the bylaws framed by KSJDE HBCS that specifically states that members of the society should be employees of the Judicial Department, for site eligibility. Clause 53 of the bylaws also states: “A member shall produce a certificate from his employer regarding his employment and length of service in Karnataka.”

However, judges are not employees of the Judicial Department, whose actual employees pooled their resources to form the layout in Yelahanka. According to Articles 124 (2) and 217 of the Constitution, Supreme Court and High Court judges are appointed by the President and they are not employees of the State or Union Government.

In the case of Union of India vs Sankal Chand Himatlal Sheth, a five-Judge Constitutional Bench observed: “A judge of the High Court is not a government servant, but he is the holder of a constitutional office. He is as much part of the State as the executive Government. In fact, a High Court Judge has no employer: he occupies a high constitutional office.”

On October 12, 1995, in the case of Subramani vs Union of India, the Karnataka High Court said: “A reading of Clause 7 of the bylaws, in our view, by no stretch of imagination can include the judges of High Court or Supreme Court (sitting, transferred, retired). Even assuming for a moment that certain judges have been allowed to become members of the society, it may be an irregularity in the conduct of the business of the society.” However, the government appears to have persisted with the candidature of Mr. Rao and even secured the approval of the Governor.

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