Haul up Halappa

The shocking incident of Karnataka food and civil supplies minister Hartal Halappa’s alleged sexual misconduct and his resignation soon after the incident came to light, exposes the low moral quotient of the Yeddyurappa government. That the alleged incident — which the victim has termed as rape — had been suppressed for over five months and the reports that the minister used his muscle power to threaten and silence the victim and her family for so long, makes it all the more reprehensible. Whether there was any political conspiracy behind the expose as alleged by the minister remains to be investigated, but the BJP leadership, which must have been in the know of such a grave charge, did not act until it came out in the open, remains equally culpable of moral chicanery and disdain for the rule of law.

Chief Minister Yeddyurappa did the right thing in asking Halappa to resign from the cabinet the moment the stink hit the ceiling, but his continued defence of the minister as a ‘satwik’ person, defies any logic. The victim and her husband, apparently close acquaintances of the minister, in their detailed complaint to the Director General of Police, have narrated how the minister abused their trust and after the incident, how he tried all the means to harass and keep their mouths shut. The veracity of their claims and how the alleged incident came to be videographed need a thorough investigation. But prima facie, Halappa’s protestations of innocence lack credibility. There have been a couple of instances of ministers in the Devaraj Urs cabinet, notably Devendra Ghalappa and R D Kittur being forced to resign in the past for their alleged involvement in sex scandals, but the charges that Halappa faces are extremely grave.

The alacrity with which Halappa’s resignation was sought, obtained and accepted had more to do with the BJP government being worried about its impact on the gram panchayat elections less than a week away, rather than its conviction that the minister’s conduct was  unacceptable. Halappa’s resignation from public office does not in any way absolve him of his alleged crime. If it is true, the government has no option but to initiate criminal action against him as per law. The recent supreme court observation that in such cases even the woman’s oral submission should be sufficient to initiate prosecution should spur the government into action, irrespective of the ‘status’ of the perpetrator of the alleged crime.

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