In what could be a relief to state government officials, the High Court has ruled that Lokayukta or an Upa Lokayukta cannot inquire into a complaint or petition against government employees unless all options of appeal with a higher authority, tribunal or courts are exhausted before it reaches them.
This ends a menace – of filing a Lokayukta complaint – to settle personal scores against government officials. In a blatant misuse of the Lokayukta institution, filing complaints with the Lokayukta or Upa Lokayukta to harass or threaten government officials when one’s demands were not met had become the norm. Now on, it won’t do, a senior government officer said.
A decision to this effect has been passed in a case where the Upa Lokayukta had conducted an inquiry and passed orders in a case against a village accountant and two tahsildars, Prashant Chanagond and Chidambar S Kulkarni, over alleged corruption. The issue pertains to a complaint, which had been lodged by one Saheboddin Abdul Saheb Horti against the trio. He had alleged that entries had been changed in favour of the decree holders in two suits passed by a principal civil court, Bijapur, without notice being issued to the complainant.
The complaint before the Upa Lokayukta was investigated and a report had been filed on 6.5.2013. The same report had been sent to the government for further orders and the state government had passed its order on 19.7.2013 entrusting an enquiry to the Upa Lokayukta. The three officials first moved the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal (KAT) challenging the same. After it was dismissed in February 2016, they had approached the High Court, which again dismissed it in March 2016. As the option to move the division bench was kept open, they then moved the division bench of the High Court, making the government of Karnataka, the registrar, the additional registrar of enquiries, Karnataka Lokayukta, and an under-secretary to the government (revenue department) as parties to the case.
The High Court, besides observing that the trio had only followed the court decision by making entries in the revenue records necessarily to be changed in pursuant to the decree passed in the civil suit, maintained that even if a person is aggrieved by entries made in the record of rights, he or she may make an application before the deputy commissioner. It cited that as per provisions of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act under Section 8, on ‘matters not subject to investigation’, the Lokayukta or Upa Lokayukta shall not conduct any investigation if the complainant has or had, any remedy by way of appeal, revision, review or other proceedings before any Tribunal, Court officer or other authority and has not availed of the same.
“In the matter on hand, even assuming that the complainant was aggrieved by the entries made in the revenue records, they should have filed an appeal before the the appellate authority for questioning such entries. Since an alternative remedy of appeal is provided under the provisions of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, the Upa Lokayukta ought not to have proceeded to investigate the matter since there is a clear bar on the Upa Lokayukta to enquire/investigate under section 8(1) of the Lokayukta Act,” the High Court had maintained.
Credits Bangalore Mirror