Santosh Hegde dismisses allegations of corruption



Bangalore: Former Karnataka Lokayukta (ombudsman) N Santosh Hegde, a Team Anna member, was on Wednesday fighting off charges that he did nothing to curb corruption in the Lokayukta setup he headed till August.

The charges were levelled by senior police official, K Madhukar Shetty, who worked under Hegde in the Lokayukta for over two years till July this year. Hegde's five year term as Lokayukta ended Aug 2.

The charges by Shetty, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the 1999 batch, are "ill-timed and mischievous", Hegde told reporters here Wednesday.

"It is true that there were corrupt officers in the Lokayukta. But we took serious action against them, including transferring them. The allegation that I remained silent is false," Hegde, a retired Supreme Court judge, asserted.

Shetty, now on a sabbatical in the United States, had recently told a leading Kannada daily that the Lokayukta was steeped in corruption and he was relieved to get out of it. He went to the US in July, a month ahead of end of Hegde's term as Lokayukta ended.

Shetty has been quoted as saying, without naming anyone, that "officers in the Lokayukta had formed a cartel to extract protection money from a particular department in return for a free run." He did not name the department also.

Hegde said he was "pained" by Shetty's charges.

He dismissed Shetty's claim that no action was taken though he had submitted a report on ridding the Lokayukta set up of corruption.

The report was "promptly forwarded to the government the day I received it. How can anybody say that I did nothing? This is a conspiracy to malign me," Hegde said.

The former Lokayukta wondered why Shetty had not revealed about the alleged cartel by officials in the anti-corruption body to extract money.

"I was not aware that officers had formed a cartel to extract money. Why didn't Shetty reveal this when he was in the Lokayukta," he asked.

Hegde hit back at state Excise Minister M.P. Renukacharya for seizing on Shetty's charges to allege that Hegde might have been sharing the booty.

"Why should I? If I was greedy, I could have sought favours from all those whom I indicted in the mining scam. This is ridiculous," he said.

Other members of Team Anna who are fighting charges of irregularities and lack of transparency in financial matters of the campaign against corruption are Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi.

The father-and-son combine of Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan, both Supreme Court advocates, have also been battling various charges against them.

Hazare, Hegde, the Bhushans and Kejriwal were the five civil society members of the joint Lokpal bill draft panel. The central government was represented by senior ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, M Veerappa Moily and Salman Khurshied.

IANS