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Reddy case: Centre, CBI stand exposed

DH News Service Bengaluru Nov 12 2017, 23:36 IST

There have been few other cases in India in which crime, business and politics combined so seamlessly to cheat the public exchequer of humongous amounts of revenue as the illegal iron ore mining and export scam in Karnataka during 2006-10. Almost the entire swindling operation was managed and executed by former BJP MLA and minister B Janardhan Reddy and others close to or related to him. The country's premier investigative agency, the CBI, probed the scandal and registered charge-sheets against companies owned by Reddy and others. But after six years of investigation, the agency has quietly closed it, reporting that there is no evidence and no prima facie case of any illegality. The report flies in the face of reason, common sense and the most obvious proofs of illegalities and misdemeanour that cannot be missed by anyone but those not wanting to see them.

The illegal mining took place in Ballari district and the exports were made from ports in Goa and Andhra Pradesh and from Mangaluru. About 12.57 crore metric tonnes of ore, estimated to be worth Rs 25,000-35,000 crore, was illegally exported through the ports. Former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santhosh Hegde, who first investigated the scam, had documented all the illega lities, with bills and other supporting evidence. The mountains of evidence have now been dismissed as molehills by the CBI. Justice Hegde has himself expressed shock over the CBI not finding any evidence and closing the case. He has asked if lakhs of tonnes of ore were not shipped away, how all of it disappeared and who is answerable for it. Justice Hegde's investigation is celebrated as among the most honest, exhaustive and painstaking of probes held into such murky matters. All the wrongdoing that he found and recorded in meticulous detail has gone down the CBI's drain. His question whether anybody can explain it has only invited a loud silence.

The only explanation is that the CBI did not want to see the evidence. Janardhan Reddy belonged to the party that rules the Centre now. The Central government controls the CBI. Only these two facts together explain the CBI's farcical investigation and the blatant cover-up of a loot of such proportions. An investigative agency undermines its own reputation and credibility when it sabotages such a clear and obvious case of malfeasance. The CBI may not have had much credibility to lose, but should not some appearances be kept at least? The government, which has made much of its claim to fight corruption, also stands exposed. The Reddy brothers and their riches mock the prime minister's claim "Na khaunga, na khane doonga.'' And the CBI ever remains the "caged bird of India".

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