The Karnataka High Court held that the Lokayukta does not have the power to make a recommendation that the enquiry against a public servant should be entrusted to it only.

In that context, the Bench of Justice NS Sanjay Gowda observed that, "If this is viewed from the context of a public servant, it would be clear that he would be carrying the definite perception that the Lokayukta or the Upa-Lokayukta had already made up its mind about his conduct since it had already made a recommendation that action should be taken against him. Consequently, if the same authority also recommends that it should be entrusted with the task of holding an enquiry, in the mind of a public servant, the outcome would be a foregone conclusion."

In furtherance of the same, it was also said that, "It is to be kept in kind that the fundamental principle that ‘justice should not only be done but it should also seem to be done’ should not be lost sight of and should be applied in its true spirit. In light of this principle, the entrustment of the enquiry to the Lokayukta or the Upa-Lokayukta would be wrong and would lead to a perception of inherent bias from the point of view of the public servant."

Counsel Raghavendra G Gayathri appeared for the petitioner, while AGA B Ravindranath, along with others, appeared for the respondents.

The petitioner, who worked as an Assistant Environmental Officer in the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board since 1992 and currently holds the position of Senior Environmental Officer, assailed an issued by the State Government under Rule 14-A of the Karnataka Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1957, which assigned the conduct of a departmental enquiry against the petitioner to the Upa-Lokayukta.

The situation unfolded when a complaint was lodged alleging pollution of the air and water of Kapila river by Jubilant Generics Limited. As the concerned Environmental Officer, the petitioner examined the complaint and explained to the complainant that there was no discharge of effluents into the Kapila river by the said industry. Unsatisfied with this explanation, Sheshanna filed a complaint with the Lokayukta, reiterating the pollution allegations against the company.

Upon receiving the complaint, the Lokayukta forwarded it to the petitioner, requesting comments and relevant documents. The petitioner responded, and after considering the petitioner's reply, the Lokayukta recommended to the government the initiation of an enquiry against the petitioner and a Panchayat Development Officer, suggesting that the enquiry be conducted by the Upa-Lokayukta under Rule 14-A of the CCA Rules.

In response to the government's notice, the petitioner contested the allegations, stating there was no truth to them and thus no grounds for an enquiry. Subsequently, the Chief Environmental Officer-2 investigated the matter and submitted a report affirming no lapses on the petitioner's part. This report was accepted by the Board, which passed a resolution rejecting the Upa-Lokayukta's recommendation and requesting the government to close the proceedings.

Despite the Board's resolution, two years later, the government issued the impugned order, assigning the enquiry to the Upa-Lokayukta. This decision prompted the petitioner to file the present petition, expressing dissatisfaction with the order entrusting the enquiry to the Lokayukta.

The High Court made the observation that, "The Lokayukta or the Upa-Lokayukta upon investigation is empowered to form an opinion and record a finding regarding the complaint that it has received and submit a report along with its recommendation. This finding is recorded on the receipt of the comments by the public servant in response to the complaint and the records it has collected in relation to the allegation. If, on the basis of the comments of the public servant in response to the complaint, a finding is recorded of probable wrongdoing or definite wrongdoing by a public servant, the Lokayukta would necessarily have formed an opinion against the public servant and judged his/her conduct. If, in the guise of making a recommendation or the Upa-Lokayukta has already formed an opinion about the wrongdoing, it would have already judged the conduct of the public servant, and in such a situation, if the Lokayukta or the Upa-Lokayukta were to thereafter be permitted to conduct an enquiry, it would obviously be conducting the enquiry with an inherent sense of bias, which has already been manifested and expressed in the Section 12(3) report itself."

Subsequently, the Court held that the of the CCA Rules. It is once again emphasised that the Government should not be influenced by the recommendation made by the Upa-Lokayukta to entrust the enquiry to it and it is required to take an independent decision. Accordingly, the petition was disposed of.


Petitioner: Counsel Raghavendra G Gayathri

Respondents: AGA B Ravindranath, Counsels Gururaj Joshi, Ashwin S Halady

Cause Title: Yathish MG vs The State of Karnataka & Ors.

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