Row over transfer of Karnataka top cop probing graft

Row over transfer of Karnataka top cop probing graft

The three-month-old D.V. Sadananda Gowda is struggling to defend the transfer of Additional Director General of Police Jeevan Kumar Gaonkar within three months of posting him to the office of Lokayukta (ombudsman) which is investigating major corruption cases rocking Karnataka.

The cases include those against Gowda's predecessor and BJP's first chief minister in the state B.S. Yeddyurappa, his Lok Sabha member son B.Y. Raghavendra and other family members.

Also under Lokayukta police scanner, supervised by Gaonkar till his transfer two days ago Nov 10, were Home Minister R. Ashoka and Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani for alleged land grab.

Gaonkar was also heading the probe into corruption charges against H.D. Balakrishne Gowda, the eldest son of Deve Gowda. Gowda is said to have threatened Gaonkar on phone for vigorously pursuing the case against his son, a former Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS) officer.

The transfer of Gaonkar as ADGP administration has raised the hackles of Governor H.R. Bhardwaj, former Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde, among others. What has made Gaonkar's shifting suspicious is it came just two days after Yeddyurappa came out of jail on bail Nov 8.

The Sadananda Gowda government only made matters worse by replaing Gaonkar with another senior police officer who had been pulled up by the high court a few months ago for not serving several court summons to mining baron G. Janardhana Reddy. Reddy, now in Hyderabad jail in connection with illegal mining case in Andhra Pradesh, was tourism minister at that time, facing a case of alleged demolition of a temple in Bellary, his political stronghold, about 300 km from Bangalore.

A trial court in Sandur in Bellary district where the case was registered against Reddy had issued summons nine times but not even one of it was served on the mining baron, though he was present either in Bellary or in Bangalore most of the times. The police officer is H.N. Satyanarayan Rao who was at that time inspector general of police, eastern range, under which Bellary came. Rao took over from Gaonkar Friday.

Now Rao will be supervising the probe against Yeddyhurappa, his sons and also Ashoka, Niarni and Balakrishne Gowda. Bhardwaj and Hegde have slammed Gaonkar's transfer from Lokayukta. Bhardwaj told reporters in Tumkur, about 80 km from here, that such action by the government "sends a wrong message".

Hegde told reporters in Bangalore that the timing of the transfer indicates efforts to "sabotage" the probe against powerful people. State Congress chief G. Parameshwara also attacked the government. "It has been done at the instance of Yeddyurappa to save his skin," he said.

The transfer of Gaonkar may reach the Supreme Court also. An NGO, on whose petition against illegal mining the apex court ordered probe, said it will inform the court of the sudden transfer.

A spokesperson of the NGO National Committee for Protection of Natural Resources told reporters "this (transfer) is interfering in the work of Lokayukta. We will draw the attention of the Supreme Court to the development".

Deve Gowda Saturday confirmed he had indeed called Gaonkar on phone but denied threatening him. "I called him only to seek some clarification and I have not threatened him. My son and we will fully cooperate with the Lokayukta police in the probe," Gowda, president of the Janata Dal-Secular, told reporters.

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