Following the High Court’s verdict to abolish the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and restore the powers of the Lokayukta police wing, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Friday pointed out that the same was promised by the BJP in its 2018 manifesto and said the government will abide by the order.
Citing pendency of the case before the court as the reason for the government proactively not acting on its promise in the election manifesto, he said the Law department and Advocate General have been instructed to study the entire text of the judgement for implementation.
Promising in the BJP manifesto ahead of 2018 assembly polls to restore the office of Lokayukta to its ”full efficacy” in its first first Cabinet meeting, the party leaders had stated then that the ACB, formed by the then Congress government headed by Siddaramaiah in 2016, would be scrapped.
”It was informally discussed in the Cabinet, we are committed to what we had said regarding ACB in our manifesto. Studying the complete judgement, the Law Minister, his department officials and Advocate General will tell us how to proceed on this, and based on that we will take further action,” Bommai said.
Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting, he said, ”We had already said in our manifesto that we will abolish ACB and continue with Lokayukta; since the matter was in the court, we could not take that decision. Now, since the court has given its judgement, we will abide by our manifesto, which is also the court decision.” The government will study the entire text of the judgement before implementing, and the Law Minister and Advocate General will guide, he said, adding that ”let’s see if there is need for any legislation or not.”
The judgement of the Division Bench of Justice B Veerappa and Justice K S Hemalekha came on Thursday on a petition challenging the ACB’s formation and the subsequent March 16, 2016, government order withdrawing the powers of the Lokayukta police from registering and investigating cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The formation of the ACB through an ”executive order” is not justified and constitutional, the judgement said. ”With this, the ACB stands abolished.” Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister J C Madhuswamy, during the cabinet briefing, said the BJP is in principle committed to the abolition of ACB, as promised in the manifesto.
”…but on the lines of the judgement of the court, we must take many things into consideration. The court has not just said it has quashed the ACB, it has spoken on merger, powers to Lokayukta and a few other things which are not warranted. We must discuss – can the court say all this in the judgement and how to go about further in execution,” he said.
Stating that the court has not made a few things clear, the minister said it needs to be discussed regarding what must be done with cases referred to ACB, officials there, raid-related cases, chargesheets to be filed – ”who has to be made responsible for all this, we will discuss.” On the BJP not taking a decision regarding ACB for such a long time after coming to power, he said, ”The case was before the court. We are committed to our manifesto. How to go about implementing it, we must study. It is not so easy.”
In response to a question about the government defending ACB formation in the court, he said, ”In any government case, we have to defend before the court, so we have defended it…we had to defend the decision of Siddaramaiah’s government as a government in the court.” All cases pending before the ACB would now be transferred to the Lokayukta police wing, the HC has said in its order, adding that however, the actions taken by ACB so far would stand.
The two 2016 notifications of the government were challenged in a bunch of petitions by various petitioners, including the Advocates Association, Bengaluru, Chidananda Urs and ‘Samaja Parivartana Samudaya’.