Sunday 1 June 2014

Lokayukta can share info with press on investigations conducted under PC Act: HC

BANGALORE: The Karnataka high court has held that there is no provision in the Lokayukta Act prohibiting the anti-corruption watchdog from giving information to the press about investigation conducted under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PC Act), 1988. 

Justice AV Chandrashekara dismissed a criminal petition filed by IPS officer Hemant Nimbalkar against former Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde. Nimbalkar had challenged a Belgaum court's March 24, 2012 order and the July 26, 2012 ruling of the 4th additional district and sessions judge, wherein his defamation suit against Justice Hegde and several newspapers, and the revision petition were dismissed. 

"Lokayukta is the administrative and disciplinary head of all officers, including Lokayukta police. Though there is no express provision in any law or order passed by any competent authority, empowering the Lokayukta to share information with the press about investigation conducted under the PC Act, there is also no specific prohibition by which the Lokayukta is inhibited to disclose the information. Unless there is a statutory prohibition under the Lokayukta Act or any other statute prohibiting the Lokayukta from giving such information, disclosing it by the Lokayukta along with a responsible officer working under him cannot be faulted," the judge observed. 

Petitioner was selective 

The judge said the complainant had kept quiet till investigation was completed and a B report was filed against him. "If the information given by the Lokayukta at the press conference on March 18, 2009, was with an oblique motive to defame him, the complainant couldn't have kept quiet till investigation was concluded, a B report submitted and the special judge accepted it. the petitioner was selective in filing the complaint," the judge said. 

Citing an apex court verdict in the Lalu Prasad vs state of Bihar case, the court said the person cannot be said to have committed an offence under sections 500 or 501 or 502 or 504 of the CrPC, merely because some news item is published attributing certain allegations to that person. 

The complaint 

Nimbalkar filed a complaint in early 2012 with a Belgaum court, alleging that at the press conference on March 18, 2009, Justice Hegde and then ADGP (Lokayukta) RK Dutta had made false allegations against him. They said he had acquired disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 250 crore. 

The court dismissed the complaint, holding that both Justice Hegde and Dutta were government officials and disclosing information at a press conference was an official act. Sanction was needed under section 197 of the CrPC to proceed in the matter. 

In the revision petition filed by Nimbalkar, the sessions court held that the Lokayukta did not provide information on its own. It was based on a source report prepared by a responsible officer working under the body.

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