Mining case: SC asks SIT to probe alleged role two ex-K'taka CMs

Mining case: SC asks SIT to probe alleged role two ex-K'taka CMs
The Supreme Court today asked the Karnataka police SIT to probe the alleged role of two former chief ministers N Dharam Singh and H D Kumaraswamy and others in de-reservation of 11,797 square kilometres of forest in Bellary district, leading to large-scale illegal iron ore mining.

However, another former chief minister S M Krishna, who has recently joined the BJP, got relief as the apex court said that the investigation against him "shall remain stayed" and granted three months time to the SIT to file the report before it after probing the roles of other two CMs and former and serving bureaucrats.

The probe against Krishna was stayed by the apex court on November 16, 2016 on grounds including that the then Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde had not found any evidence against him.

A bench of Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman, meanwhile, restrained all other courts including the high court from passing any order in the matter and said, "We will keep it pending and we want to monitor it."

During the day-long hearing, the court said it wanted to see "some action" in the case as there was "no action" taken on the reports of the lokayukta.

Abraham T Joseph, a businessman and activist, had approached the trial court seeking registration of an FIR against various persons including the three former chief ministers alleging that they connived with several bureaucrats and others in de-reservation of 11,797 square kilometres of forest in Bellary district of Karnataka which led to large-scale illegal iron ore mining.

Initially, the court said there cannot be a "parallel investigation" by the state police after the lokayukta, which has investigating powers under the state statute, has probed the case and filed its reports with the executive authorities.

The bench did not agree with the submission that the probe against Krishna be also allowed, saying that there was nothing against the former chief minister in the lokayukta reports.

"The Gaikawad report says the chief minister (Krishna), who was in the office from 1999 to 2004, was hoodwinked by the bureaucrats," the bench said, adding that the "veracity of allegations against accused one (Krishna) is not substantiated".
The counsel for Kumaraswamy opposed the submission, saying that it would amount to parallel proceedings.

"We are not disposing of the petition. If you have any problem, you can come to us," the bench told the counsel for JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy. Earlier, a local court had ordered registration of FIRs against former chief ministers S M Krishna, N Dharam Singh and H D Kumaraswamy in connection with alleged illegal mining. This order was unsuccessfully challenged in the Karnataka High Court.

Krishna had then moved the apex court and got a stay on the investigation on grounds including that he has not been indicted by the lokayukta. Joseph, in his complaint, had accused Krishna of destroying the state's natural resources for personal gain, while serving as the chief minister by dereservation of the forest areas which led to the illegal mining scam.

Besides the three former CMs, various senior officials were accused of conspiracy and corruption. It was alleged that Dharam Singh ordered issuance of temporary transport permits for the movement of iron and manganese ore from agricultural patta lands, resulting in a loss of Rs 23.22 crore to the government.

The complaint had further alleged that Kumaraswamy had illegally approved a mining lease in 550 acres of land in favour of Shree Sai Venkateshwara Minerals and committed illegalities relating to Jantkal Mining Company.

Senior officials named in the complaint by Joseph included Gangaram Baderia, Basappa Reddy, I R Perumal, Jija Harisingh, Mahendra Jain, K S Manjunath, Ramappa, Shankarlingaiah and V Umesh.

The lokayukta had submitted its reports to the authorities and so far, no criminal proceedings have been intiated.

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