Hanging by a Slender Thread

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Y-Bhaskar-Rao
Testing times Y Bhaskar Rao needs providence to sail through the crisis. Photo: KPN

 

Justice Y Bhaskar Rao of the Karnataka Lokayukta may end up being the most ‘adamant’ member of the judicial system. Everyone in Karnataka wants his resignation: civil society leaders, lawyers, ex- judges, political parties, rti activists and the public in general. Rao’s actions in last couple of weeks have brought only embarrassment to the premier anti-graft body in the state, the Karnataka Lokayukta.

For the last three weeks, the Lokayukta’s office in Bengaluru has witnessed plenty of action. Protests by concerned citizens, lawyers and political groups have brought the traffic on the bustling Ambedkar Road to a standstill, but the 71-year-old anticorruption ombudsman Rao remains unfazed and holds on to the post shamelessly.

It’s not just the role of his son Ashwin Rao in the extortion cases in Karnataka, but the manner in which Rao is protecting his son and his associates, by wiping out the trail of crimes committed by them, has spawned huge debates.

Despite glaring impropriety being established by the Lokayukta police, Justice Rao managed to save his son by securing a high court verdict, which stayed any action on the fir filed against Ashwin.

Even as the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed to probe the matter began its work, the Lokayukta police, which had initially investigated the role of Ashwin handed over a nearly 200 page report citing names of the officials with their phone call records etc.

The initial report, according to sources, clearly establishes the nexus between Ashwin and other officials within Lokayukta who had summoned several government officials to the office and to the official residence of Rao to negotiate the settlement amounts to drop corruption charges against them.

The biggest fear most as mentioned earlier was a father’s desperate attempt to save his son.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Bengaluru launched a full-fledged onslaught demanding the ouster of Karnataka Lokayukta.

“I fail to understand why he (Bhaskar Rao) is still holding on to the chair which was once occupied by people like Justice Santosh Hegde, whose efforts to root out corruption in the state are well known. It would have been better if he had stepped aside and allowed a free trial to take place. Our agitation will continue as the truth must come out,” state convenor of AAP, Prithvi Reddy tells Tehelka.

Worried by the controversy surrounding the anti-graft body, Justice Santosh Hegde met the Karnataka Assembly speaker and sought his intervention in the matter to protect the sanctity of the prestigious institution. Justice Hegde also said that the state government should not entertain Rao’s plea to probe the cases using the sit. The biggest hurdle that the Karnataka legislature faces is the immunity that the Lokayukta Justice enjoys. He can be removed only by passing an impeachment motion in both the houses of Karnataka legislature.

Meanwhile, the opposition leader Jagadish Shettar of the bjp is not keen to take any action as Rao, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, is close to several senior bjp leaders from the state including a Union minister.

The bjp, on the contrary, wants the probe to be handed over to the cbi which the state government is not really happy about. “It’s an effort by the bjp to shield Ashwin Rao as they can manage the cbi probe the way they want to,” a Congress spokesperson, SA Hussain said. So, while the protests continue, all are eagerly awaiting to see if Rao steps down or not.

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