Why in news?
In a major setback to the State government, the High Court of Karnataka set aside the constitution of a separate Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), under the direct control of the Chief Minister, in 2016 by withdrawing the powers vested with the Karnataka Lokayukta (KL) police wing to probe all cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against public servants.
- The State government is not justified in constituting the ACB by an executive government order, dated March 14, 2016 exercising its executive power under Article 162 of the Constitution of India when the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984 has occupied the field to eradicate corruption in the State
- the court restored the power to investigate the corruption cases in Karnataka to the KL police wing as it existed prior to the creation of ACB.
- The court also made it clear that all the pending inquiries, investigations, and cases being prosecuted by the ACB got transferred to the KL police wing for further action as per the law.
- the government had realised the necessity of a strong and effective vigilance system in addition to Lokayukta, no other reason had been assigned for creating ACB as a parallel to the institution of Lokayukta, the Bench pointed out.
- The court noted that Lokayukta had created history and was a model to the entire country by making a chief minister and a minister resign from power and had sent them to prison in 2011. It had also made a Lokayukta resign over his son’s involvement in corruption. This was possible because of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act and Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act.
- The court said ACB had not registered any criminal cases against the ministers, MPs, MLAs and MLCs but only registered some against the authorities.
- The bench directed the state government to maintain transparency and it shall appoint a competent person as Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta
About Anti-Corruption Bureau
- The Anti-Corruption Bureau is a specialized agency responsible for collection of intelligence with regard to corruption, maintaining liaison with the various Departments of Government through their Vigilance Officers, enquiries into complaints about bribery and corruption, investigation and prosecution of offences pertaining to bribery and corruption and tasks relating to preventive aspects of corruption.
- The Bureau handles all cases registered under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Besides this, the Bureau conducts enquiries based on the information/petitions received from various agencies like Government, Lokayukta, etc. and also on the information/petitions received from the public containing specific and verifiable allegations of corruption against Public Servants.
- Problems of Redressal of Citizens Grievances was the subject on which the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Late Shri. Morarji Desai, who later became the Prime Minister of India gave its first report. It is that report which recommended for the establishment of Lokpal and Lokayukta institutions at the Central and State level respectively for redressal of citizens grievances by investigating into administrative actions taken by or on behalf of Central Government or State Government or certain public authorities.
- It is the said recommendation which made the Karnataka State Legislature to enact the Karnataka Lokayukta Act 1984 for investigating into allegations or grievances in respect of administrative actions relatable to matters specified in List II or List III of the 7th Schedule to the Constitution of India.
- The Act provides for the appointment of a Lokayukta and one or more Upalokayuktas to investigate and report on allegations or grievances relating to the conduct of public servants. The public servants who are covered by the Act include:-
(1) Chief Minister;
(2) all other Ministers and Members of the State Legislature;
(3) all officers of the State Government;
(4) Chairman, Vice Chairman of local authorities, Statutory bodies or Corporations established by or under any law of the State Legislature, including Co-operative Societies;
(5) Persons in the service of Local Authorities, Corporations owned or controlled by the State Government, a company in which not less than 50% of the shares are held by the State Government, Societies registered under the State Registration Act, Co-operative Societies and Universities established by or under any law of the Legislature.
- Institution of Karnataka Lokayukta consists of Enquiry Wing, Technical Audit Cell and Police Wing.
- The Act also empowers the Lokayukta and Upalokayukta to initiate suo-moto investigations in respect of the public grievances and allegations. In large number of cases having public interest, Lokayukta and Upalokayuktas have initiated suo-moto investigations and thereby appropriate steps are being taken to redress the grievance of general public.
a person to be appointed as Lokayukta shall be a person who has held the office of a Judge of Supreme Court, or that of the Chief Justice of a High Court, or a person who has held the office of a Judge of a High Court for not less than ten years; and a person to be appointed a Upa-Lokayukta shall be a person who has held the office of a Judge of a High Court for not less than five years.