Lokayukta Amendment Bill paves way to oust Justice Bhaskar Rao
BENGALURU: The Karnataka legislature on Thursday empowered itself to remove Lokayukta Justice Y Bhaskar Rao, by passing a bill simplifying the procedure for the ombudsman’s removal.
The Karnataka Lokayukta Amendment Bill, 2015, was passed after an extended debate in the light of a raging row over an alleged extortion scandal involving Justice Rao’s son, and the growing clam our for his exit.
The bill will be tabled in the legislative council on Friday, and if approved, will be sent to governor Vajubhai R Vala for his assent. Assuming the governor will have no qualms in giving his assent to this bill, sources said the government is expected to hold a special session to move a motion to remove Justice Rao some time after the BBMP elections. This could be in September, if Justice Rao fails to resign by then.
The government brought in a minor change in section 6 of the bill that deals with the removal clause. It says the Lokayukta can be removed only if the motion is passed by two-third of the members present in the house on that day, and not by a simple majority, as in the original amendment bill.
The change was effected following strong objection by opposition leader Jagadish Shettar. “The clause will make the Lokayukta function at the mercy of the ruling party. It also gives scope for misuse,” he said.
Though the house was unanimous on the removal of Justice Bhaskar Rao, there were differences of opinion on how to go about it. While some members, quoting former Chief Justice of India S Rajendra Babu, said repealing the Lokayukta Act is the best way as it would dissolve the watchdog, which could be re-established with a new Act later.
Former law minister S Suresh Kumar opposed it, saying it would send the wrong message, and batted for an amendment to section 6 of the Lokayukta Act. “We need not chop the hand for a simple injury on the nail. We need to respect the people’s beliefs in the Lokayukta,” he added.
Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa said the house should unite to find the best solution to get rid of the Shani (inauspicious star) at the earliest and convene a meeting of floor leaders to draw up a consensus.
The state government, however, decided to go ahead with regard to amending the eligibility criteria for the selection of the Lokayukta. The 1984 Act makes the judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of the high court eligible to be appointed the Lokayukta. But as per the new bill, a judge who has served not less than 10 years is eligible to be the Loakyukta, and a judge who has put in not less than five years as high court judge, can become the Upa Lokayukta.