BANGALORE: Karnataka Lokayukta (ombudsman) Mr N Santosh Hegde on Wednesday quit his post frustrated at the state government’s indifference to the institution set up to curb corruption in bureaucracy.
"I have suffered mentally. There are several instances to show how the government has ignored or deliberately overruled or shown indifference to the institution," Mr Hegde told a press conference after resigning, a year ahead of the end of his five-year term.
Mr Hegde, appointed to the post in August 2006, met the Governor, Mr H R Bhardwaj at Raj Bhavan on Wednesday evening and submitted a four-line resignation letter.
The resignation is effective from August 31 as otherwise the constitutional post becomes defunct without an incumbent, Mr Hegde said.
In a scathing attack on the government of the Chief Minister, Mr B S Yeddyurappa, Mr Hegde said there were instances of officials suspended over corruption charges being reinstated and posted in the same position.
"This is a slap on my face, on the institution," he said.
Mr Hegde’s indictment of the government has come two days ahead of the massive public meeting Yeddyurappa has planned in Bangalore to celebrate two years in office.
Mr Yeddyurappa assumed power in May 2008.
Mr Hegde pointed out the office of the Upa Lokayukta (deputy ombudsman) has been vacant for over six months. Around 10,000 cases were pending, to be attended to by the Upa Lokayukta, he said.
The Lokayukta has powers to deal with the cases involving class one officers and above but he does not have powers to act on its own.
The Upa Lokayukta handles all other cases and has powers to initiate action on his own.
"Please see the injustice done to the people whose complaints can be dealt with only by Upa Lokayukta," Mr Hegde said.
"I have repeatedly written to the government but have not received any answer," he said.
Mr Hegde referred to one case where a cabinet minister wanted an officer to be suspended because the latter’s probe had exposed that more than 3.5 million tonnes of iron ore was illegally exported causing massive revenue loss to the government.
"I came to know of this on Monday (June 21).That officer came to me seeking help. But I cannot do anything.
"If I cannot protect an officer, who was obeying my or my colleague’s orders, why should I continue?" Mr Hegde asked.
"Is this the reward (for an honest officer)? My officers have suffered. I decided I should not be there if I cannot be their protector, especially when I know they are honest officers," Mr Hegde said.
He hoped that the government would rectify the situation "so that my successor will be able to do his job".
Mr Hegde asserted that he will not change his mind even if pressure is brought on him.
"This is not a spur of the moment decision, not an emotional one, though I have suffered mentally.
"I have some unfinished work, like completing some reports. Also because the post of Lokayukta cannot be vacant as under the rules it will be defunct without an incumbent," Hegde said.
Since he took over in August 2006, Mr Hegde has conducted more than 100 raids to unearth disproportionate assets of various officials across Karnataka.
Most of the officials exposed by the raids have been suspended, several of them reinstated while conviction has been very few.
Mr Hegde and his predecessor, Mr N Venkatachala had been pressing the government to give them power to initiate probe into corrupt officers on their own.
Now they can do so only if they receive a complaint against an official.