Embattled Karnataka lokayukta Y Bhaskar Rao quit on Tuesday over allegations of large-scale corruption against his son after months of Opposition campaign with the BJP and Janata Dal (Secular) joining hands in the state assembly to remove the ombudsman.
Law minister TB Jayachandra said the government would take a call on the next lokayukta after receiving recommendations from the Karnataka high court but didn’t rule out the possibility of the next ombudsman being from outside the state.
“Bhaskar Rao’s resignation is unanimously supported by both houses of the state legislature. He should have resigned long ago. It was proving to be very difficult to remove him as the legal processes are very complicated,” the minister said.
Rao had resisted growing calls for his resignation in recent months and had gone on leave since July after his son Ashwin was arrested by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) for running an extortion racket along with other senior lokayukta officials.
Operating out of Bhaskar Rao’s office and residence, the group would allegedly demand large sums from government officials to prevent raids on their properties by the anti-corruption watchdog. The scam was busted in May this year after one of the blackmailed officers lodged a complaint with a lokayukta police officer.
“Hon’ble governor of Karnataka is pleased to accept the resignation of Dr. Justice Y Bhaskar Rao, as lokayukta of Karnataka state with immediate effect,” a Raj Bhavan communique said.
The development came after governor Vajubhai R Vala approved a crucial amendment to the Lokayukta Act in August which made impeachment easier.
“Enlightened sections of Karnataka were eagerly waiting for this. I feel he could have been more sensitive and done this earlier. If he had done this earlier, the Karnataka lokayukta as an institution could have stood. Now, it is dying a silent death,” said BJP leader and former minister Suresh Kumar. The saffron party also alleged that the Congress was trying to make the anti-corruption body toothless.
The group would allegedly demand large sums from government officials to prevent raids on their properties by the anti-corruption watchdog. The scam was busted in May this year after one of the blackmailed officers lodged a complaint with a lokayukta police officer.
The development is a new low for the anti-corruption institution that was once considered a model for the country. The Karnataka lokayukta – during the tenure of former chief Santosh Hegde – became the template for the janlokpal bill but has since rapidly deteriorated, with two successive ombudsmen - Shivraj Patil and Bhaskar Rao – getting caught in scam accusations.
Timeline of events:
May 4: PWD Executive Engineer M N Krishnamurthy is called to the Lokayukta office where Lokayukta Bhaskar Rao’s son, Ashwin Rao, allegedly demands Rs. 1 crore to stop a Lokayukta raid on his properties
May 7: After repeated threats, Krishnamurthy takes the matter to Lokayukta SP Sonia Narang
May 11: Instead of registering an FIR or setting up a trap for Ashwin Rao, Narang submits a preliminary report to Lokayukta Registrar and ADGP (Lokayukta) police. When the matter is brought to Bhaskar Rao’s notice, he allegedly buries the preliminary report
June 23: An NGO gets wind of the issue and approaches deputy Lokayukta Subhash Adi who immediately orders an internal probe
June 26: Bhaskar Rao nixes the internal probe and writes to the Joint Commissioner of the Central Crime Branch seeking an ‘independent probe’
June 27: CCB Joint Commissioner reveals his own father-in-law is being probed for graft by the Lokayukta and asks Bhaskar Rao to reconsider decision to order a CCB probe
June 28: Bhaskar Rao writes to the government, asks for probe to be handed over to an independent agency
June 30: Under severe public pressure and protests, state government forms an SIT to probe graft charges against Ashwin Rao, Bhaskar Rao and alleged accomplices
July 1: Under instructions from Subhash Adi, Sonia Narang registers FIR against Ashwin Rao
July 4: Under public pressure, 57 Opposition MLAs write to the Speaker, seeking a motion to impeach Bhaskar Rao
July 06: Speaker cites technical issues and rejects proposal for impeachment motion
July 23: After Bhaskar Rao makes it clear that he will not step down, Siddaramaiah government tables a Bill to amend the Lokayukta Act to include clauses for the removal of the Lokayukta
July 26: SIT arrests Ashwin Rao from Rangareddy district near Hyderabad