Can’t expect fair probe from ACB officers, Karnataka Lokayukta tells HC

An investigating officer under the State’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) cannot be expected to conduct a fair and impartial inquiry against high-ranking public servants when he or she will be working under the disciplinary control of the Home Department or the State government, the Lokayukta contended before the High Court of Karnataka on Saturday.

The ACB police are under the direct control of the Executive, whose interference cannot be ruled out, and the tenure of its officers is not assured, the Lokayukta claimed.

The submission was made before a Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice B.M. Shyam Prasad, during the hearing of a batch of PIL petitions questioning the legality of the notification issued by the State government on March 14, 2016 to set up the ACB.

Since “decision-making” public servants have been placed differently from the other public servants in the notification, there is a violation of fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, as it amounts to denial of equal rights, protection, and personal liberty, the Lokayukta contended. Its written statement was submitted by Venkatesh S. Arbatti, special counsel and special public prosecutor of the Lokayukta.

‘No politics’

“The representatives of the people, who are public servants, and full-time government officials, who are government servants, are well protected if the investigation powers under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 are with the Lokayukta,” the statement said, pointing out that there was “absolutely no chance of vindictive action” at the instance of political opponents against people’s representatives.

Pointing out that the fundamental right to life and liberty has been protected and safeguarded even in respect to “public servants,” as defined under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, the Lokayukta stated that if the investigating agency is not independent, the right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 is not protected. The police officers working for the Lokayukta cannot be transferred without the consent of the Lokayukta under Section 15 of the the Lokayukta Act, and this ensures the independence of the agency probing corruption cases as ruled by the apex court.

It was also contended that the government had no authority to withdraw the powers to investigate corruption cases from the Lokayukta police without prior consent from the Lokayukta.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 8:13:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/cant-expect-fair-probe-from-acb-officers-karnataka-lokayukta-tells-hc/article24957451.ece

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