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Karnataka HC stops Lokayukta investigating its own alleged corruption as lawyers protest

The Karnataka high court on Wednesday stayed an inquiry being conducted by the state Lokayukta’s police into the bribe charge against some of its unidentified officials.

Passing an interim order against the internal probe, a division bench of the high court comprising Justice N Kumar and Justice B Sreenivase Gowda said the anti-graft body should wait for the report of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up on Tuesday by the state government to probe the charge.

“As the complaint is against officials of the Lokayukta itself, it is appropriate that it is conducted by an outside agency,” the bench observed in its order.

The SIT, headed by Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Kamal Pant, was set up on the request of Lokayukta (ombudsman) Justice Y Bhaskar Rao on June 29 under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, to probe into the graft charges, including a bribe of Rs.1 crore sought by one of its officials from an executive engineer in May.

The high court’s directive came on a writ petition filed by Bhaskar Rao’s son Ashwin Rao, who is accused of being involved in the bribery case by a few bureaucrats of the state government and some RTI activists.

Ashwin Rao rushed to the high court a hour after Lokayukta Superintendent of Police Sonia Narang filed a first information report (FIR) against him and others in the institution on the direction of Upa Lokayukta (deputy ombudsman) Justice Subhas B Adi, who ordered a probe into the bribe charge on June 23.

The interim stay was granted as neither the Lokayukta nor his deputy has powers under its Act to investigate such charges as it is an institution set up to investigate corruption cases.

“To avoid conflicting findings, it is appropriate that the ombudsman and his deputy shall not direct any in-house inquiry and wait for the SIT report,” the bench said.

Incidentally, executive engineer MN Krishnamurthy, who made the bribe charge, claimed in writing earlier on Wednesday that the person who asked him for the bribe for hushing up a corruption complaint against him was Ashwin Rao, though he introduced himself as “Krishna Rao” on May 4 in the Lokayukta office.

The FIR against Ashwin was filed on the basis of a suo motu case registered against him alias Krishna Rao under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.

Meanwhile, about 100 lawyers of the state bar council demonstrated at the Lokayukta office, demanding Bhaskar Rao’s resignation after the FIR was filed against his son and the SIT was set up to probe the graft charges.

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