They violated bylaws of housing cooperative societies to procure residential sites
The office of the Lokayukta, which has remained vacant since the resignation of Shivaraj V. Patil on September 20 over alleged irregularities in site allocation, is yet again at the centre of controversy.
Documents made available to The Hindu by a whistleblower show that nominees of both the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress for the post have violated bylaws of housing cooperative societies to procure residential sites.
BJP's nominee for the Lokayukta is Samindar Rudrayya Bannurmath, the retired Chief Justice of Kerala and the former judge of the High Court of Karnataka. He was allotted site no. 2118/A on September 18, 2001 for Rs. 2,02,291 at Yelahanka by Karnataka State Judicial Department Employees House Building Co-operative Society Ltd. (KSJDE HBCS).
The Congress's nominee, retired Supreme Court judge R.V. Raveendran, was allotted site no. 1,392 measuring 7,623 sq. ft on May 24, 1996 for Rs. 2,09,660 in Yelahanka by the same society when he was a judge of the High Court of Karnataka.
These transactions violate Clause 10 (B) of the KSJDE HBCS bylaws 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, the catch is this: 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.
On October 12, 1995, in the case of Subramani versus 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.”
Mr. Raveendran's allotment is irregular as Clause 10 (A) of the bylaws states that if a member or his family already owns a housing property, he/she cannot be considered for allotment by the society.
Mr. Raveendran along with his spouse owns at least six properties in Bangalore, according to his declaration of assets. Among these is a 368.49-sq. m plot allotted by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) at Banashankari in 1985, which he bought for Rs. 75,000.
Section 3(2)(a) of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act says: “A person to be appointed as the Lokayukta shall be a person who has held the office of a judge of the Supreme Court or that of the Chief Justice of a High Court and shall be appointed on the advice tendered by the Chief Minister in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court of Karnataka, the Chairman of the Karnataka Legislative Council, the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council and the Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.”
Highly placed sources in the BJP said that Mr. Bannurmath's candidature was being pushed by the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who is an undertrial in a land scam case. A senior IAS officer revealed that Mr. Yeddyurappa had asked Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda to clear Mr. Bannurmath's name as the party's official nominee by 2 p.m. on October 26.
Another senior IAS official said that certain irregularities had surfaced during the scrutiny of Mr. Bannurmath's record. “But we are helpless onlookers. This is a political decision,” the officer said.
When this matter was brought to the notice of the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Siddaramaiah, he told The Hindu : “I don't know what to say. If even the judiciary cannot be trusted, what can we do?”
This reporter was unable to get a response from either Mr. Bannurmath or Mr. Raveendran, even though he went to the residence of the former. The former judge would not meet him.