Karnataka gets new Lokayukta finally

Nearly 17 months after the post of the anti-corruption ombudsman, the Lokayukta, fell vacant in Karnataka, and after months of being dogged by controversy over its choices for a replacement, the BJP government in Karnataka has managed to put in place a new Lokayukta.

Former chief justice of the Karnataka High Court Justice Y Bhaskar Rao was sworn in by Governor H R Bhardwaj here on Thursday in what is seen as an attempt ahead of elections by the BJP government to arrest criticism of systematically undermining the office of the anti-corruption ombudsman after investigations under former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde forced the BJP CM B S Yeddyurappa to quit in July 2011.

Rao, 74, whose selection was also opposed in some quarters over issues like his ownership of a property in a judicial layout and his lack of knowledge of Kannada, was cleared for the position by the Governor and took his oath in Kannada.

Speaking after the swearing-in ceremony, Governor Bhardwaj said the choice of Rao was made by the government after exercising due diligence. Prima facie there is no illegality in the choice and appointment, he said while suggesting that unnecessary controversies should be avoided.

Justice Rao on his part said his actions as the Lokayukta would speak for itself.

Since the exit of Justice Santosh Hegde as Lokayukta in August 2011 following his submission of a far reaching report on illegal mining in Karnataka, that indicted several powerful BJP leaders, the state government has been struggling to find a replacement.

Two prior Lokayukta appointments fell through for different reasons. Justice Shivaraj V Patil quit in September 2011, barely a month after he took over, following reports that his family owned properties in violation of state rules. The subsequent appointment of Justice S R Bannurmath, widely perceived as Yeddyurappa's choice, was not accepted by Governor Bhardwaj.

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