Governor H.R. Bhardwaj on Sunday said that there are “reasons other than owning a judicial layout plot” for rejecting S.R. Bannurmath's nomination as Lokayukta, and that he was withholding those reasons to “protect the dignity” of the former High Court judge.
But a letter by him to the Chief Minister makes it clear that it was this controversy that prevented him from appointing Mr. Bannurmath to the post.
The letter (a copy is with The Hindu) dated November 15, 2011 to the Chief Minister states: “…the controversies surrounding him [Justice Bannurmath] are already in the public domain. It is not in the interest of the State or in the interest of preserving the integrity of the institution of Karnataka Lokayukta to appoint the person around whom there are already controversies in the public domain. In this regard, I would not share your perception that the allegations that were made against the nominee of the Government are vague and reckless.
The details narrated by the entire mainstream media do not suggest that the allegations are vague and reckless. I would consider that the media has acted in a very responsible way.”
The inconsistencies between Sunday's statement and this letter gain significance in the light of the appointment of the former High Court judge Chandrashekaraiah as Upalokayukta. Mr. Bhardwaj made the statement on the sidelines of Mr. Chandrashekaraiah's swearing-in ceremony when reporters pointed out that just like Mr. Bannurmath, Mr. Chandrashekaraiah too had benefited from a site allotted by the Karnataka State Judicial Department Employees House Building Cooperative Society.
In his letter, Mr. Bhardwaj also pointed out that, unlike in the case of the former Lokayukta Shivaraj V. Patil, the controversial allotment to Mr. Bannurmath made headlines even before his name was formally proposed by the Government.
“So far there has been no attempt [by the Government] to substantively meet these allegations that came into the public domain and to clear the air about the controversies surrounding the nominee. In such a scenario, we would be undermining the importance of the institution of the Lokayukta and we will be failing in our duty if we are not able to find a person free from such controversies. A set of press reports relating to the controversy surrounding the appointment of Shri S.R. Bannurmath are enclosed,” the letter stated.