Lokayukta Patil quits a month after taking over | india | Hindustan Times
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Lokayukta Patil quits a month after taking over

india Updated: Sep 20, 2011 01:42 IST
Samar Halarnkar
Samar Halarnkar
Hindustan Times
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Built over 20 years, the reputation of India's premier anti-corruption institution was sullied in less than a week as Karnataka Lokayukta justice Shivraj V Patil resigned over a land scandal.

After defending his position for four days, justice Patil stepped down after it emerged that he and his wife, Annapurna, owned three plots of land in violation of Bangalore city laws, which say a family cannot buy more than one housing site through a housing society.

Justice Patil also bought two plots of land from housing societies investigated by various state authorities.

One of these investigations revealed two ironies: The housing society in question was alleged to have sold land reserved for a road to a company run by the family of former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa; and the probe itself is being run by the Lokayukta.

"This malicious campaign has deeply hurt and pained me," justice Patil said on Monday.http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/200911/20-9-11-metro15.jpg

"In this uncongenial atmosphere, I have deemed it appropriate to submit my resignation... I request all concerned to honestly reflect and decide whether they want to fight against corruption or malign the people who take up the fight against the corrupt."

Last month, justice Patil replaced justice Santosh Hegde, the man whose report on illegal mining ended Yeddyurappa's chief ministership.

The resignation of justice Patil, the first Lokayukta to step down in Karnataka, is a setback to ongoing corruption investigations and prosecutions against former ministers, legislative assembly members, corporators and bureaucrats.

When news of the justice Patil's three plots of land broke, he first said he had done no wrong and was unaware of the law.

As the controversy grew, he said his wife would return a plot of land.

His position weakened when anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare said on Sunday: "He (justice Patil) has no right to remain Lokayukta."

Justice Patil was one of 84 judges who got a site through a judicial employees' society, whose housing plan was termed "illegal" by city planners and a legislature committee.

It did not help that the Karnataka Judicial Employees' House Building Society was headquartered in the high court.

"Having the registered office of the society in the high court building itself invokes awe and terror in the minds of various agencies who (sic) have to take action against the law," said a 2007 legislature committee report.

"It is not just me, there are over 70 judges who were allotted sites by the society," justice Patil had said in his defence.

"Some of them are Supreme Court judges."

The case was later dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Another plot of land was purchased in 2006 from the Vyalikaval Housing Building Cooperative Society, being investigated by the Lokayukta for selling a part of its land to the company run by Yeddyurappa's family.

Since the 1990s, the state has seen a succession of strong anti-corruption ombudsmen, facing hostile governments as they investigated and charged bureaucrats and politicians with corruption.

Justice Patil's resignation will make a difficult task more so.

"In the retreating standards of public morality, people still perceive the judiciary as the last bastion of redress, relief, remedy and justice. Therefore, the judiciary should be like Sita or Caesar's wife, above and far removed from the least odour of suspicion of indiscretion."