Lokayukta police to seek ASI help to probe Palace project

Lokayukta police to seek ASI help to probe Palace project

The Lokayukta police, who are probing the alleged irregularities in the gold leaf laying works taken up at the Amba Vilas Palace, has decided to take the assistance of senior experts from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The ASI’s assistance will be sought to determine the quality of works, raw materials used, the quantum of gold used and others.

The experts will compare the works of the previous artists with that of the present artist. This apart, the ombudsman will also go into the financial capabilities and expertise of Ganjifa artist Raghupathy Bhat. The Palace Board had contracted the works to Bhat, after the seven-member expert committee constituted by it gave its nod earlier this year.

The probe was initiated following a complaint by one Javaraju, Nanjangud, who had alleged irregularities in the handing over of the works to the artist, violating the norms of Karnataka State Transparency in Public Procurement Act. He had alleged that the Board had not called tenders for the works.

However, the Board had justified the same citing that six works estimated at Rs 5.15 crore were exempted from the tender procurement, which includes the gold leaf works of
Rs 3.65 crore. The works included cleaning, fixing gold leaf, and recreating artistic paintings on the pillars and walls of private durbar hall, old durbar hall, and kalyana mantap. It has been a part of the 13 works carried out at a total cost of Rs 25 crore sanctioned by the State government in 2012-13.

Lokayukta, which has gathered the necessary information, will soon start investigating into the case. Now that Lokayukta has also accumulated information of the technical persons of the Palace Board, who have been associated with the works it will also concentrate on financial capabilities of the artist Bhat as well as his expertise. The expertise of the technical experts of the Board would also be examined.

S M Jagadeesh Prasad, Superintendent of Police, Karnataka Lokayukta, Mysore Division, to whom the case has been referred to, told Deccan Herald that T S Subramanya, Deputy Director, Palace Board was asked to furnish the records of the project, which he had submitted. “He has alleged the vested interest of P V Avaradhi, former deputy director of the Board. Also, we can arrive at some conclusion on the quality of the art work only after seeking the opinion of senior artists,” he added.

He said that even though the works have been given exemption, according to 13 (1) C of Prevention of Corruption Act, the guilty would be charged for misappropriating government funds. ­“Exemption of the works will not facilitate escape of the criminal action. The government might have provided exemption on certain occasions, but this should not be misused,” he added.

The report is expected to be submitted in three months.

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