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Frustrated with govt inaction, Karnataka Lokayukta quits

Justice N Santosh Hegde was apparently miffed over the state govt’s failure to empower him.

Zeenews Bureau

Bangalore: Miffed over the state government’s failure to empower him, Karnataka Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde, who was probing the mining mafia of Bellary’s powerful Reddy brothers, resigned from his post on Wednesday.

"I don`t want to be useless sitting in a position. It is not enough if I catch people. I need powers to bring cases to logical conclusion," Hegde told a news conference shortly
after resigning from the post he occupied four years ago.

"I have suffered mentally. There are several instances to show how the government has ignored or deliberately overruled or shown indifference to the institution," he added.

Justice Hegde met state Governor H R Bhardwaj in the evening and submitted his resignation to him. The resignation would be effective August 31.

"Under the Lokayukta Act, when a person is not occupying the post, that post becomes defunct and not vacant. Since the post of Upa Lokayukta remained vacant in the last six months, I will be there till August 31," Hegde said.

In a scathing attack on the government of Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, Hegde said there were instances of officials suspended over corruption charges being reinstated and posted in the same position.

"This is a slap on my face, on the institution," he said.

Former Supreme Court judge Hegde, like former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice M N Venkatachaliah, had been demanding greater authority from the state government, including suo moto power to probe corrupt officials.

Successive governments in Karnataka have been speaking of empowering the Lokayukta, but no such development has taken place in view of the unified opposition from state bureaucrats and politicians.

Justice Hegde was also frustrated with the state government’s attitude of delaying "necessary action" against officials caught on corruption charges the Lokayukta.

Justice Hegde’s team, which was probing the activities of Bellary’s powerful Reddy brothers’ mining mafia, had also prepared a report on illegal mining in the state. The Lokayukta however felt that the state government was not acting in the right direction towards the report.

Justice Hegde said he did not target any lobby but he did take action against illegal mining. Later, while speaking to a news channel, the former SC judge said illegal mining was on in Karnataka on a huge scale.

The Lokayukta said he could have continued in the post enjoying the perks like car with red beacon but he was only following his father`s advice that "don`t stay in a place where you are made to feel you are unwanted".

Hegde asserted that he will not change his mind even if pressure is brought on him. "This is not a spur of the moment decision, not an emotional one, though I have suffered mentally.

Hegde denied that he was resigning because of a news report telecast by a Kannada TV channel that it was due to a contempt notice against him.

"I have not received any contempt notice. The news telecast by the channel is far from truth. I can file a defamation suit against it. It is an option which I will decide," he said.

During his tenure, Justice Hegde carried out over 100 successful raids and nabbed many officers having disproportionate assets.

His office had even caught two-time BJP legislator Y Sampangi for allegedly taking a Rs 5 lakh bribe to settle a land dispute in January 2009.

The Lokayukta was snubbed when a seven-member special House panel let off Sampangi in March 2010. The panel, which included four BJP legislators, concluded that "in the absence of sufficient evidences to prove the guilt as registered by the police, it is difficult to say that the member of the House has misused his office or conducted himself in an improper manner".

Justice Hegde had once said that "consecutive governments have not taken the issue of corruption seriously. Amendments are in fact made to dilute law (as in Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988)."

Hegde was appointed as Karnataka Lokayukta on August 3, 2006 for a term of five years and still had 14 months left in his tenure. He was given a public service award from Transparency International for his work.

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