interview | P. Vishwanath Shetty Karnataka

‘ACB needs to be scrapped and its powers restored to Lokayukta’

BENGALURU KARNATAKA 24/01/2022 : Karnataka Lokayukta Justice P Vishwanatha Shetty, addressing a press conference at Lokayukta office, ahead of his retirement, in Bengaluru on January 24, 2022. Photo MURALI KUMAR K / The Hindu

BENGALURU KARNATAKA 24/01/2022 : Karnataka Lokayukta Justice P Vishwanatha Shetty, addressing a press conference at Lokayukta office, ahead of his retirement, in Bengaluru on January 24, 2022. Photo MURALI KUMAR K / The Hindu

Justice P. Vishwanath Shetty completes his five-year tenure as the Karnataka Lokayukta on January 27. His tenure came shortly after a deep crisis in the institution. His predecessor Bhaskar Rao was embroiled in a corruption scandal himself and the chair lay vacant for two years after his exit. The State Government created the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), taking away powers from the Lokayukta police to investigate under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Mr. Shetty maintained a low profile through his tenure and championed several causes, including lakes and encroachment of government lands among other issues. Excerpts from a conversation with The Hindu .

You took over Lokayukta when the institution was in a crisis. Five years later, how do you look back?

My foremost priority through my tenure was to strengthen the institution, rather than glorify myself. After the Government formed the ACB, there has been a general feeling that the institution has been weakened. But I think following a crisis, I have tried my best to restore the credibility of the institution. I was also attacked by a person with a knife in my office in 2018. That was a bitter incident, but I soon overcame that and continued with my work. I am happy and content with my work. I toured the State once after I took charge and wanted to go on another tour, which did not happen due to the pandemic, but all of us are helpless.

Do you think formation of the ACB was a wise move?

It is true that the institution has lost some bite after the Government formed the ACB taking away the investigation powers of Lokayukta police under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. This had already happened before I was appointed Lokayukta and the matter was pending before the Karnataka High Court. After studying the case, I formed a view that I could impress upon the court to resolve the matter either way at the earliest, in which I miserably failed as the matter is still pending.As an institution and in my personal opinion too, the Government Order forming the ACB has to be scrapped and those functions have to be brought back under the Karnataka Lokayukta. We have filed an affidavit to this effect before the court. I hope the issue is resolved soon.

How has this affected your work?

The institution can do more if ACB is abolished and those powers and functions are restored back to the Karnataka Lokayukta. But that is just one part of the institution and actually it never comes under the direct purview of the Lokayukta.There is a lot of work on public grievance redressal against maladministration that can be done, which we concentrated on. During my tenure, I have initiated 304 suo motu proceedings pertaining to maladministration, mostly based on media reports ranging from encroachments, providing protective gear to pourakarmikas, to protecting lakes.

How has the State Government responded to the recommendations you have made?

The State saw four Chief Ministers from all three prominent political parties during my tenure. No Government was better than the other, most have ignored recommendations made by the institution for action against errant officials. The situation is so bad that an anti-corruption activist has filed a PIL in the High Court seeking directions to the State Government to implement our recommendations. We supported the petition and it is still pending in the court. Lokayukta has always been a recommendatory body and the Governments need to take its recommendations seriously and submit Action Taken Reports within the stipulated time to make the administration people friendly.


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 28, 2022 10:03:03 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/acb-needs-to-be-scrapped-and-its-powers-restored-to-lokayukta/article38320926.ece