Bangalore, June 23: The Lokayukta has finally thrown up his hands in despair. In a typical response, when asked if he was giving up the fight against corruption, Santosh Hegde shot back saying that he had to be ’’allowed to work’’ to function effectively.
That summed up the tone of his press conference later, where the Lokayukta expressed his unhappiness at the government blocking his efforts to book corrupt officials. Angry, emotional, resigned.. this was the Lokayukta who vowed to continue his fight against corruption on a different platform. But at no point did he indicate that he was likely to change his mind about his resignation, if some of his longstanding demands were met.
Expressing his incredulity at an instance where a suspended officer (caught on charges of corruption) was reinstated to the same post, the Lokayukta said senior officers had stated that they were revoking the suspension of the officer because the Lokayukta went to the press in an angry tone against the reinstatement. “Suspension cannot be revoked on the anger or compliments of the Lokayukta,” he said.
The Lokayukta made repeated references to feeling powerless and being unable to make any concrete moves towards curbing corruption. “I feel helpless and useless,” he declared.
The latest move of the government to suspend an officer in Karwar who had carried out his duties in accordance to the wishes of the Lokayukta was the last straw. The reference was to the DCF of Karwar, R Gokul, who along with Lokayukta had seized iron ore worth crores from Karwar and Belakeri ports. Though Santosh Hegde neither named the officer or the Minister who was trying to get him suspended on the flimsy charges of not having attended a meeting, the Minister in question is allegedly the Environment Minister Krishna Palemar.
Yes, I may be doing injustice to people. It may be the other way round. It may be justice for some others. My decision is firm. I am not the one who will use resignation as a tool to blackmail the government. I feel helpless. Merely catching people won’t serve any purpose. Reinstating the same officials in the same position and in the same places even after the Chief Minister’s assurances of not doing so is a slap on the face of Lokayukta. How would a retired Supreme Court Judge feel about this? My father would always say, ‘If you are not wanted at any place, don’t stay there for a minute.’ My resignation will not make any difference in my attitude of fighting corruption. If you want the Lokayukta institution to survive, appoint a Lokayukta and a Upa Lokayukta. At present, the Lokayukta institution is not available for the poor. If I can’t protect my honest officials, why should I be in power?. My helplessness in not helping honest officials poses physical and professional danger to them. The Government neglected, ignored and deliberately overruled the Lokayukta institution. I mentally suffered much during the last three months. Writing a letter seeking suspension of an honest official is a sin worse than being corrupt. Between 8000 to 9000 cases are awaiting action by Upa Lokayukta. Three defamation cases were registered against me. Two were dismissed. I will face the third one.
Santosh Hegde: A profile
Lokayukta justice N Santosh Hegde was born on June 16, 1940 at Nitte Village, Karkala taluk, erstwhile Dakshina Kannada district (now Udupi). He completed his schooling at St Aloysius School, Mangalore and Madras Christian College, Madras.
After obtaining intermediate from St Joseph’s College, Bangalore and BSc from Central College, Bangalore, and Law Degree from Government Law College, Bangalore, Hegde joined the Bar in January 1966. He was appointed as advocate general in February 1984 before being posted as additional Solicitor General of India in November 1989, first Karnataka-born to hold the post.
He was appointed directly from the Bar as Judge of the Supreme Court of India in 1999, one of the four to be thus appointed in the history of Indian judiciary. Hegde retired as the Supreme Court judge in June 2005, before his appointment as Chairperson, Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal, New Delhi. He functioned in this post till August 2, 2006, before taking charge as the Lokayukta of Karnataka on August 2, 2006 for a period of five years.
Reactions of prominent persons to resignation of Santosh Hegde
It is sad that Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde has resigned. The government has taken action on his report on illegal mining and the Action Taken Report (ATR) has also been released. However, I am unaware of the illegal export of iron ore from Karwar port, as alleged by the Lokayukta. The chief minister and senior ministers in his cabinet will discuss the development on Thursday. V S Acharya, Home Minister
This is a black day in the history of the State. The Lokayukta is a man of impeccable integrity and honesty. When H D Kumaraswamy was the chief minister he tried to bring in an ordinance with regard to the same, which was not approved by the then governor. H D Deve Gowda, former prime minister
Justice N Santosh Hegde is an upright man. I know him from past three decades. I have great admiration for him. It is very difficult to find his replacement. It is unfortunate that he has resigned. Ashok Harnahalli, Advocate General
It is an unfortunate development. I think the State government should appeal to Justice Hegde to reconsider his decision in the interest of Lokayukta. S Suresh Kumar, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs
I don’t know what prompted the Lokayukta to resign. He should have continued in the position considering the welfare of the people. The Lokayukta should not have taken a hasty decision, as the government is about to appoint Upa Lokayukta.
K S Eshwarappa, BJP state president
Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa repeatedly said he would strengthen the Lokayukta institution by giving extra powers. But he never showed commitment to fulfil his assurance. The Lokayukta’s resignation is a slap on the face of the government. R V Deshpande, KPCC President
Lokayukta Justice Hegde’s decision is prompted by the State government’s inaction to his reports on illegal mining. Principal Conservator of Forests U V Singh had also conducted a detail inquiry into illegal mining in the forest areas. But the government did not act on these reports leading to his resignation. Siddaramaiah, Congress leader
Justice Santosh Hegde’s resignation is tragic and sad. His unrelenting efforts at improving standards of Governance by targetting corruption is a critical part of the checks and balances of our democracy and requires encouragement and boosting. I urge him to withdraw his resignation and urge the government to address the issues that the Lokayukta is concerned about - specifically the lack of action against those who have been chargesheeted by the Lokayukta. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP