Bangalore, July 27: Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa's survival hung in suspense tonight after the state Lokayukta strongly indicted him over payment of about Rs 30 crore kickbacks by a mining firm to his family trust and recommended his prosecution under anti-corruption law.
In a report on the rampant illegal mining in the state, the Lokayukta also indicted the mining barons and ministers Reddy brothers, their associate H Sriramulu, a minister, former Chief Minister and JDS leader H D Kumaraswamy and several officials and recommended their prosecution under Prevention of Corruption Act(PCA) and other laws.
The Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde, a former Supreme Court judge, concluded that the state has suffered a loss of Rs 16,085 crore during 2006-10 due to “illegalities and irregularities” in mining in the state.
In damning evidence against the Chief Minister, Hegde said during the course of investigations it was found that certain transactions have taken place between a company—the South West Mining Company, owned by Jindals dealing in iron ore—which had donated Rs 10 crore to a trust managed by family members of Yeddyurappa.
Shortly after submission of the report, a worried BJP leadership summoned Yeddyruppa, its first chief minister in South since May 2008, to Delhi as a section of the party is said to be of the view that he should be removed so that its anti-corruption campaign is not removed.
After a meeting of the BJP leaders at L K Advani's house, spokesman Ravishankar Prasad put up a brave face saying the voluminous report has to be first studied before the action promised by party president Nitin Gadkari could be taken.
The 25,228 page-report including annexures said the Jindal firm also purchased one acre of land (from the chief minister's family members) in Rachenahally on Bangalore's outskirts for Rs 20 crore, whereas the guidance value fixed by the government was Rs 1.40 crore. Hegde's main report runs into 943 pages.
“This abnormal payment by a firm which was not financially stable, I find it very difficult to accept that one has to borrow money and donate”, said Hegde, adding there were a “lot of discrepancies” pertaining to the sale.
“This has led to the incontrovertible conclusion on my part that these payments were made for reasons other than genuine reasons. This is an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act”, Hegde asserted and recommended the chief minister's prosecution under section 12(3) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1961.
“I have made recommendations to the Governor to take further steps in that regard, because he is the competent authority to take action against the Chief Minister. Today, we have submitted the report to the Government through the Chief Secretary and a copy has also been submitted to the Governor for further action”, he said in respect of donation made to the trust run by the Chief Minister's family members.
At another point, he said, “I have made a recommendation for prosecuting everybody. I have stated this to the Governor. It is for him to act.”
To a question, he shot back,”Action under Prevention of Corruption Act should be taken. What else?.”
Hegde told a press conference that he has named Chief Minister Yeddyruppa, former Chief Minister and JDS leader H D Kumaraswamy, Reddy brothers (who are ministers and mining magnates), their camp follower and another minister H Sriramulu, Congress MP Anil Lad's wife and over 600 officials in the mining racket.
In the case of Kumaraswamy, the enquiry found “misconduct” on his part regarding grant of two mining leases and action has been recommended under PCA.
The report castigated the BJP government, which is in power since May 2008, for its failure to check irregularities and illegalities in mining in the state.
“The enquiry has found large scale involvement of officials, powerful people both in the Administration as well as in the ground level,” said Hegde.
He said the Lokayukta has submitted the report to the Government and a copy of the report with annexures have been sent to the Governor for “further action” (in regard to the Chief Minister).
On Reddy brothers, Hegde said contrary to their claim that they were not doing any mining in Karnataka, “we have enough documents to prove to the contrary.”
He said the illegalities found were of different types as has been enumerated in different chapters and supported by documents.
“The offences committed by various people and companies will be covered under various acts and action will be taken in accordance with law under IPC, Forest Act, FMRDA and PCA,” he added.
Hegde said the Lokayukta has recommended that since various illegalities and irregularities were committed the Government should cancel the mining licenses, compute the quantity of loss and treat it as “stolen iron ore” and recover money from people concerned at the market rate.
He lamented that despite pointing out several irregularities and illegalities committed by persons concerned including government officers, details from the time mining leases were granted till the time mineral was exported, suffering of the people in the mining areas en route the mining region and the damage to roads and environment, in his first report submitted to the government on December 18, 2008, “no action worth the name has been taken”.
Yeddyurappa is the first ever Chief Minister in the state to be indicted by Lokayukta under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and for whose prosecution it has recommended.
The report running into 25,228 pages has been prepared by officials including U V Singh, Biswajeet Mishra and Bipin Singh by examining over four lakh records and collating 50 lakh entries, Hegde said, adding “out of the 25,228 pages, 543 pages are mine”.
Lauding the tremendous work done by U V Singh, Hegde said “I perceive he is under threat because he stepped on the toes of powerful persons, political personalities and strong lobby”.
“I not only perceive physical harm, there is every possibility of professional harassment in every way. I have informed the government about this threat, physical and professional and sought for security”, he said.
Hegde hoped that the government would take suitable action against those named in the report as contemplated in law and recover loss that is caused.
“Once illegal mining is stopped the Central and the State government can recover lakhs of crores of rupees as Excise and VAT,” he said, adding over 100 companies were involved in illegal mining.
To a query on what action has been recommended against those named in the report, he said “we have referred to various acts, it could be the IPC, Prevention of Corruption Act, Forest Act, Mines Minerals Regulation and Development Act (MMRDA) Act, under which action should be taken in accordance with law”.
Hegde further hoped that since Supreme Court was monitoring mining activities in Karnataka, it will take cognisance and look into the report. PTI