Barely two months after he was appointed Lokayukta of Karnataka, Justice Shivraj Patil on Monday resigned after a controversy erupted over allotment of housing sites for him and his wife allegedly in violation of rules.
71-year-old Patil, a former Supreme Court judge who was made Karnataka’s ombudsman on 3rd August succeeding Santosh Hegde, called on Governor H R Bhardwaj and submitted the papers on Monday.
Stung by the allegations against him, a visibly upset Patil announced his resignation at a news conference after describing the campaign against him as “malicious”.“This malicious campaign has deeply hurt and pained me. In this uncongenial atmosphere I have deemed it appropriate to submit my resignation,” he said.
Patil, whose office is required to investigate land scams some of which involve high-profile politicians, himself faced allegations that he and his wife own three plots of land in Bangalore in violation of city bylaws.
The politicians included former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, who lost his job after Sanoth Hegde indicted him in connection with illegal mining in the state.
The allegations raised questions about the Lokayukta’s moral authority to continue as the anti-graft watchdog.
Stating that a “malicious campaign” had been carried out in the past few days against him, he said “shockingly instead of treating surrender of the site a step in the right direction, it was treated and campaigned as if it is an acceptance of the mistake and grave crime has been committed”.
Patil faced allegations of violating rules by securing the allotment of a 9,600 sq ft site at the Judicial Employees Layout in 1994 and his wife a 4,200 sq ft site at Nagavara from the Vyalikaval Housing Cooperative Society. His wife had surrendered the site on 14th September after the issue surfaced.
He had defended his action saying his wife Annapoorna had purchased the site through “outright sale” and that she was not an allottee as member of the Society.
Patil said that to avoid a public debate he had asked his wife to surrender the site forthwith, without getting into the legality of it.
“Accordingly, she addressed a letter to the Society on September 14 to surrender the site registered in her name.” Patil clarified that his wife did not file any affidavit making any false declaration at any point while purchasing the site from the Vyalikaval Housing Society.
“Sale being on outright basis, there was absolutely no restriction for the purchase. All the purchases have been through legitimate funds generated and are accounted for,” he said.
He said he did all his earlier assignments including the Lokayukta to the best of his ability and with “a clear conscience”.
“True to the oath of my office. I am sure all the people who have had occasion to know me or my work can vouch for my fairness, honesty and integrity,” he added.
Patil also said his only discomforting thought was that he was giving up the office yielding to the malicious campaign of a few and letting down the hopes of many who had reposed their faith in him.
He also requested all sections to honestly reflect and decide whether they want to fight against corruption or malign the people who take up the fight against the corrupt.
Patil virtually rejected allegations of flouting rules in getting allotment of site at the judicial layout and asserted that the house he built in Vasanathanagar area in 1982 was not allotted by the government.
The former SC judge said he had purchased the land from a private individual, while the site in judicial layout was alloted to him in 1994 by Karnataka judicial department.
Under the norms, the plot allotments violate Sec 10 (a) of the model by-law framed for House Building Cooperative Societies which bars any member or his family who has been allotted a site by a society from getting another in the name of other family members.
Patil had defended securing the site for him in the judicial layout, saying the issue of site allotment to judges has been settled by the Supreme Court and the high court.
Regarding the site alloted to his wife, Patil had said she purchased the plot in outright sale and “Once that is done, restrictions on a family member owning another does not arise.”
He, however, had said he was not going into its legality and had advised his wife to surrender the site on moral grounds as he holds the post of Lokayukta.
Patil cautioned the media that people who have spent their life time with integrity and built a reputation cannot take such a malicious campaign without being hurt.
“Consequently, my fear is, it will deter honest people from taking up such assignments, which would become a great disservice to the fight against corruption and playing into the hands of the corrupt,” he warned.
Patil, who read out a prepared statement and did not take questions, said in the past he had discharged his duties as a judge of High Court of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Chief Justice of High Court of Rajasthan, Judge of the Supreme Court, National Human Rights Commission as a member, as a one man committee formed by the Central government to submit a report on 2G allotment and also headed a committee to report on child marriages in Karnataka.
“All these assignments including my current one as Lokayukta I have done to the best of my ability and with a clear conscience,” he said.
“True to the oath of my office, I am sure all the people who have had occasion to know me or my work can vouch for my fairness, honesty and integrity”.