Row over bribe charge probe in Karnataka’s Lokayukta

Bengaluru, June 27 (IANS) A controversy is brewing in Karnataka’s Lokayukta between its ombudsman and his deputy over an inquiry the former ordered into a bribery charge against the anti-graft institution.

“The central crime branch (CCB) of the state police cannot hold an inquiry without first filing an FIR (first information report) and it lacks expertise to conduct such a probe,” state Upalokayukta (deputy ombudsman) Justice Subhash B. Adi told reporters on Saturday in Udupi, about 400 km from here.

Adi’s comment comes a day after Lokayukta Justice Y. Bhaskar Rao told the CCB to inquire into the bribe charge against an unidentified official in the anti-graft body who is reported to have sought Rs.1 crore from a Public Works Department engineer on Rao’s behalf on April 21, as there were many complaints against the engineer.

“He (Rao) could have waited for my return to Bengaluru and discussed with me before asking the CCB to inquire, as I had already directed our Superintendent of Police Sonia Narang to investigate the complaint by the engineer after she submitted a report on May 6,” Adi said.

In the company of another upalokayukta Justice S.B. Majage, Rao told the media that he handed over the internal probe to the CCB by invoking the Karnataka Lokayukta Act for a suo motu investigation, as the bribe charge was made against the institution and its head.

“Though Rao told the media that he too directed Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pronab Mohanty on June 6 to inquire into the reported bribe incident, I was not aware as my office was not informed about a separate probe in the institution,” Adi said.

According to Narang’s report, an unknown official, by the name of ‘Krishna Rao’ and claiming to be the ombudsman’s ‘personal secretary’, summoned the engineer to the Lokayukta’s official residence in the city on April 21 and asked for Rs.1 crore bribe to avoid booking graft cases against him.

“As the bribery charge against the very institution set up to fight graft in pubic life will shake the people’s faith in it, the charge should be investigated by a higher probe agency like the CBI, but not CCB, which functions below us,” Adi said.

In a related development, former Lokayukta Justice N. Santosh Hegde also urged the state government to order a high-level probe or a CBI inquiry into the bribe charge in the anti-graft institution to ensure the people do not lose faith in it.

“Bribery charges within the institution will make people lose faith in it. It is better to shut it than allowing it to simply raid only officials and not others. Framing charges and conviction rate are not in proportion to the graft cases booked,” Hegde told reporters here.

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