State puts the ball in CEC court

State puts the ball in CEC court

Relies on Lokayukta report while filing reply in Supreme Court

State puts the ball in CEC court

 The State government has washed its hands of a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged role of three former chief ministers — S M Krishna, N Dharam Singh and H D Kumaraswamy —in illegal mining, and decided to leave it to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to take an appropriate decision in this regard.

In its five-page reply recently sent to the CEC, which had sought its comments on points raised by petitioner T J Abraham, the government has only stated the facts, and it has based most of its comments on the Karnataka Lokayukta reports on illegal mining. It has not expressed its opinion as such.

On an allegation that the illegal mining saga began with de-reservation of forest by the then chief minister S M Krishna in 2003, the government said the action to de-reserve forest areas was initiated on the advice of the Union government pursuant to the National Mineral Policy, 1993. “The Cabinet approved the de-reservation of 11,620 sq km,” it stated.

Further, the government said: “The Karnataka Lokayukta, in its first report on illegal mining, has pointed out the incomplete information placed before the Cabinet, the action of the then Director, Mines and Geology department, in unauthorisedly including a block for proposed de-reservation, the decision taken by the minister concerned for de-reservation of certain blocks and incorrect/inadequate details in the Cabinet note regarding the views/decisions taken from time to time…and further, the Lokayukta recommended reservation of six blocks containing state reserve forest which were de-reserved for grant of mining lease.”

Deliberate attempt

Though the Lokayukta had in its first report stated that the names of those responsible for de-reservation of forest areas by misleading the Cabinet will be mentioned in the second report, it has neither given any information nor made any recommendation for action in this regard, the government said in its reply signed by G A Adagatti, the Additional Secretary to Commerce and Industries department (Mines).

The report has gone to the CEC along with a covering letter dated May 22 signed by the chief secretary.

To another point by the petitioner that de-reservation of forest is a deliberate contempt of an SC order, the government said that the character of forest/sanctuaries/national parks de-reserved for mining purpose was not changed. Though the area was de-reserved, the nature of the land remains forest, it added.

However, the government has not commented on whether the decision taken to de-reserve forest areas in 2003 was illegal with a view to help private investors.

It stated that the issue was subsequently brought before the Cabinet in 2010, and that the Cabinet took the decision not to consider applications seeking mining leases in areas which come under the Western Ghats region and in the vicinity of the Bandipur tiger reserve in Mysore district.

On Dharam Singh, the government said the Lokayukta had recommended initiating proceedings to recover the Rs 23-crore loss caused by him to the State by allowing transportation of iron ore from patta lands.

But the then governor, during the President’s rule, had intimated that no action was required. So, no action was taken against Singh.

“The Lokayukta has not recommended action against H D Kumaraswamy and S M Krishna,” it added.

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