Govt spent Rs 66 lakh on panel, only to scrap it

For the BJP government land acquisition and denotification have become touch-me-not subjects. This is probably why the Justice B Padmaraj Commission of Inquiry on land scams has been wound up even as the Karnataka High Court is yet to adjudicate a writ petition pending before it in this regard.

The government, while constituting the commission a year ago, had referred to it alleged irregularities in allotment of sites and denotification of land in at least eight government agencies.

But while deciding not to extend the term of the commission on November 22, it has given no reasons. The government has spent Rs 66 lakh for the functioning of the commission so far.

A writ petition filed by JD(S) MLC Y S V Datta had challenged the establishment of the commission and it is posted for hearing on December 10.

Datta’s argument was that the Lokayukta was looking into complaints of illegal allotment of land and there was no need for the commission.

The Division Bench of the High Court had stayed the proceedings of the commission on January 13 this year.

The government, in its objection, had strongly justified the constitution of the commission and had also argued that it was the State Cabinet’s decision to hold a judicial inquiry into allotments of sites and denotification of land from January 1, 1995 to November 22, 2010.

BDA site allotment

The commission was entrusted with the task of probing into allotment of BDA sites including those under the ‘G’ category, KHB, urban local bodies and KIADB, fixing responsibility on persons responsible for illegalities and suggesting measures to prevent illegalities.

Following the stay, the commission could function hardly for a month and hence it could not complete the entrusted task within the stipulated time of one year from the time of its establishment.

With the writ petition of Datta still pending in the court, the commission has sought time till December 9 to complete the formalities of closing the office. The government is yet to respond.

 Justice Padmaraj has stopped coming to the office. The files and furniture are being returned to the Department of Personnel and Administration.

When the JD(S) leaders were demanding the resignation of B S Yeddyurappa as chief minister over land scams and illegal denotification of land, an agitated Yeddyurappa had constituted the Padmaraj Commission to probe allegations relating to land matters. In a notification issued on December 6, 2010 the government clarified that the cases in which investigation was under progress by the Lokayukta were excluded from the purview of the Commission.

Official sources said in the last one year, the panel had received a good number of petitions explaining how departments violated rules to allot sites and denotify land.

The abrupt closure of the commission had not only wasted public money, but also the efforts of the Commission to gather information. It is to be seen how the court sees the closure of the Commission as land scams are a reality in the State, sources said.

However, Advocate General B V Acharya told Deccan Herald that he had not advised the government on the issue.

He said: “The court had stayed the functioning of the commission.  It is the prerogative of the government to set up a commission or close it. It can also accept the report of the commission or reject it.”

To a question why the government now considers land matters insignificant, while it was serious about the issue an year ago, he said: “The Commission could not function because of the court stay. Why blame the government?”

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