In a significant judgement, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday abolished the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau that was constituted in 2016 to investigate cases against public servants, The Hindu reported.
The court observed that the Anti-Corruption Bureau was constituted to shield corrupt politicians, ministers, and officers from the watchful eyes of the Lokayukta, according to Live Law.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau was formed after powers vested with the state Lokayukta to look into corruption cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, were withdrawn by then Siddaramaiah-led Congress government.
Until then, the Lokayukta, with its own police wing, was the premier anti-corruption agency in the state.
On Thursday, a division bench of Justices B Veerappa and KS Hemalekha directed the Anti-Corruption Bureau to transfer the cases and officers under its ambit to the Karnataka Lokayukta, according to Live Law.
“The state government is not justified in creating ACB [Anti-Corruption Bureau] by way of an executive order when the field of investigation into corruption cases under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 was covered under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984,” the court observed. “If really the state wanted to maintain the independence of the Lokayukta, it could have strengthened the hands of Lokayukta by giving more independent power or allowed the ACB to work under it.”
The bench also directed the state government to maintain transparency and appoint competent persons as the Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta by keeping the public interest in mind, according to The New Indian Express.
“We request constitutional authorities to recommend people with integrity, both in public and personal life to the post of Lokayukta, uninfluenced by caste, creed etc,” the court said. “[The] appointment should be non-political and the post should not be [an] accommodation centre for anybody.”
During Thursday’s hearing, the judges also said it was unfortunate that even after 75 years of Independence, no political party in the country is willing to allow independent authority, like the Lokayukta, to discharge its duties in a transparent manner.
The order was passed on three separate public interest litigations by an advocate named Chidananda Urs, Advocates’ Association of Bangalore and non-governmental organisation Samaja Parivarthana Samudaya. All of them had challenged the constitution of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau in the state recently made news after a Karnataka High Court judge HP Sandesh orally alleged in July that he was indirectly threatened with transfer for passing orders against the head of the agency Seemanth Kumar Singh.
Justice Sandesh said that the threat was an act of interference with the dispensation of justice and a threat to the independence of the judiciary.