Congress, BJP, both lying about strengthening Lokayukta: Justice Santosh Hegde

Siddaramaiah tried to denude the Lokayukta of its power to redress the public grievances but had to withdraw following massive public outrage.

Bengaluru: Former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde said that the poll manifestoes of BJP and Congress for the May 12 Assembly elections are a sham. Here is an excerpt of the interview with Deccan Chronicle.

Both BJP and Congress in their manifestoes have promised to strengthen the Lokayukta. What are your views?
They are both lying. The Lokayukta mining report was submitted in 2011 when Mr B.S. Yedyurappa was the CM of a collation government with the JD(S). They made no efforts to implement its recommendations. In 2013, the incumbent Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who as the then opposition leader in 2010 along with other Congress leaders had undertaken a padyatra to Ballari to protest against illegal mining, slowly started dismantling the Lokayukta institution, which under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act was vested with two powers – redressal of public grievances against corrupt government servants and power to investigate corrupt government officers under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act. Between 2006 and 2011, the Lokayukta police trapped and filed cases against 750 accused government officers.

Siddaramaiah tried to denude the Lokayukta of its power to redress the public grievances but had to withdraw following massive public outrage. In 2016 without discussion, he took away the Lokayukta’s powers under the PC Act and formed the Anti-Corruption Bureau, which is under the control of the Home Department. Can it act independently against the corrupt officers and politicians?

Some of the key accused in the illegal mining report have been given tickets by the BJP and Congress. Is there apprehension among your then team of officers who had exposed them?
Since both parties have fielded the mining accused, I only hope that whoever comes to power will not hound the team of honest and sincere officers, who worked selflessly and at the risk of their lives to expose the illegal mining mafia and saved the state crores of rupees and its remaining iron ore. The main pillar of the report, Dr U.V. Singh, escaped being run over by a JCB, when he was on duty.

He refused police protection. A young forest officer, Gokul, was one of the officers who had seized 90 lorries that were carrying illicit iron ore in one night and filed FIRs against many companies which were responsible for theft of seized iron ore at Belekeri port. He was placed under suspension because he had refused to meet the then BJP minister at the house of an accused. I had resigned in protest. Later I withdrew my resignation at the request of Mr L.K. Advani, who assured me that he would speak to the then government to revoke Gokul’s suspension order. Mr Advani is like a father figure to me.

As an anti-corruption crusader, does it bother you to see the tainted men soliciting votes?
What do you expect of me? I had thought there would be huge appreciation by the then and successive governments for the illegal mining report. But the response has disappointed me. Was it worth the effort to take on the wrath of such powerful people? The only satisfaction is that the ordinary man appreciated our work. When I was young we would boycott a man who was imprisoned on corruption or criminal charges. Today, society celebrates power and money. Since the time I demitted office of the Lokayukta, I have visited more than 1,000 educational institutions. I tell the youth to cultivate two virtues – contentment and humanism. My hope is with the youth of India.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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