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On July 2, 2001, Mr. Justice N. Venkatachala, retired judge of the Supreme Court, was sworn in as the Lokayukta by the Governor, Ms. V.S.Rama Devi, at the Raj Bhavan.

Mr. Venkatachala has held out the promise of ensuring transparency in the functioning of the anti-corruption agency. He also became the first of the four Lokayuktas to take the oath of office and secrecy in Kannada. The Governor also administered the oath in Kannada. The Lokayukta took the oath in the name of God.

Justice Venkatachala is putting the fear of god in the Karnataka administration. The office receives anywhere between 100 and 250 complaints of corrupt practices in the administration “every single day”. This is a vast improvement over the position a year ago, when Venkatachala’s office used to receive 20-odd petitions daily. The rise in the number of complaints is just one aspect of the impact that the 70-year-old workaholic has made in Karnataka, forcing Chief Minister S.M. Krishna to accede to his request for more powers to the office of the Lok Ayukta, the public watchdog.

The ombudsman has been seeking more powers to act against the corrupt even when no complaint is lodged. The proposal did exist when the draft legislation was proposed during Ramakrishna Hegde’s chief ministership in 1984.

The element of fear has come about not so much because Justice Venkatachala has taken action in every case he has caught, many a time, red-handed by personally leading the raiding party.

This approach has begun to have its impact. In one instance, people in Mysore prevented a surgeon from receiving an award at a public function after as he had caught accepting a bribe. The government has also suspended several officials and sacked a few on the recommendation of the Lok Ayukta.

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