After my blog about the newly created Anti Corruption Bureau, (ACB) set up by the Karnataka Government, I tried to get the English version of the GO under which the ACB was set up from the Internet, but I just couldn’t find it. But what was worse was that even the Kannada version, which I had earlier retrieved and somehow got translated, had disappeared! The only conclusion one can draw is rather unsavoury – that the Karnataka Government is making it very difficult for the general public to access this GO.
Be that as it may, after issue of the GO dated 14-3-16, Bangalore Advocates Shri S Nataraj Sharma and Shri NP Amrutesh on 2-4-16 went in search of the new ACB Office that was supposed to be located in Khanija Bhavan, and office building close to the Race Course, to file a complaint. As per newspaper reports, the two advocates searched the Khanija Bhavan but were not able to find any such office functioning in the building. They reportedly persisted with their search, travelling to the office of the Director General of Police and to the Malleshwaram Police Station. They were finally able to locate a Deputy Superintendant of Police, who was kind enough to receive their complaint and is reported to have stated that they had 15 days time to hold a preliminary enquiry on the complaint. Under which law and section this 15 days is specified, we have no clue.
This was the first complaint received by the ACB after its creation, and lo and behold, it was against the Chief Minister of Karnataka, about his acquisition of an expensive Hublot watch under mysterious circumstances, an issue that had become a huge controversy, rocking the last legislature session, particularly, since the Chief Minister was not able to give any convincing explanation as to how he came to acquire the expensive watch that he was exhibiting on his wrist. This was a humorist’s delight – and cynically, a befitting inaugural for Karnataka’s ACB. But what was more disturbing is that even after 19 days of the ACB’s creation, the designated office empowered to receive corruption complaints at Khanija Bhavan was still non-functional.
Immediately after the GO of 14-3-16 creating the ACB was issued, the police officers working in the Lokayukta were asked not to receive any further complaints against corruption, and to stop further investigation of pending corruption cases with them. They were also asked to hand over all such cases to the ACB, which did not even have a functional office to begin with, not even on 2-4-16.
The Government clearly appears to have acted with a sense of panic and undue haste regarding transfer of the pending corruption cases to the ACB, not even waiting until a functional alternative was put in place. Anyhow, for the moment, everyone is waiting with bated breath, to see how the new ACB will handle its inaugural complaint against the Chief Minister of Karnataka, and demonstrate to the people its fairness and credibility in investigation. As on date there is no information of what has become of the complaint. This is Karnataka’s biggest joke of the year.
Meanwhile, a PIL has been filed by Advocate Shri Chidananda Urs before the High Court of Karnataka, stating that the new ACB has not yet become fully operational and at the same time the powers of the ADGP Lokayukta have been withdrawn, which has created a stalemate and vacuum in the existence of an Investigation Agency related to corruption cases.
In the criminal justice system, there cannot be any stalemate or vacuum due to non existence of an investigation agency. This is something that has never happened in India before.
On 7-4-16, the High Court of Karnataka reportedly ordered that cases under investigation and pending sanction from government, before the police wing of the Lokayukta should not be transferred to the ACB. At the next date of hearing on 12-4-16, strangely enough, the Government of Karnataka asked for further adjournment of the case. At that hearing, the President of the Advocates Association of Bangalore informed the Court that they too have filed a PIL in the Karnataka High Court in the same connection.
Meanwhile filing complaints against the Chief Minister at the ACB was catching on. Another one was filed against him by an RTI activist alleging nepotism and corruption in favouring his son Dr Yathindra in a tender and to set up a diagnostic laboratory on Victoria Hospital premises, another issue that has been raging in the news. This was in clear violation of the Code of Conduct according to which 'chief minister/ministers shall ensure that the members of his/their family do not start, or participate in business concerns, engage in supplying goods or services to that government (excepting in the usual course of trade or business and at standard or market rates) or dependent primarily on grant of licences, permits, quotas leases etc, from the government.' Once again, it is reported that there was no police staff at the Khanija Bhavan office to receive the complaint addressed to the ADGP of ACB, and it had to be submitted to an employee at the reception at Khanija Bhavan!
So the stalemate continues and the corrupt are having a field day. Strange that none of the mainstream national media have focused on this unprecedented subversion of existing anti corruption systems in Karnataka by a mere Government Order, with no effective alternatives in place.