SC rejects plea against Janardhan Reddy's firm

SC rejects plea against Janardhan Reddy's firm

Supreme Court of India. (Reuters Photo)

The Supreme Court has dismissed a plea by Karnataka IAS officer M E Shivalingamurthy against the High Court's order that had set aside his discharge in a case of unauthorised issuing of permits to Associated Mining Company (AMC) of mining baron and former minister G Janardhana Reddy, allegedly causing estimated loss of Rs 480 crore to the exchequer.

“We are not persuaded to hold that the High Court was in error,” a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph said, paving the way for trial of the officer, along with others.

The court said that the defence of the accused cannot be looked at the stage of discharge.

“The principle established is to take the materials produced by the prosecution, both in the form of oral statements and also documentary material, and act upon it without questioning through cross-examination and everything assumed in favour of the prosecution. If a scenario emerges where no offence is made out against the accused, it, undoubtedly, would enure to the benefit of the accused warranting the trial court to discharge the accused,” the bench said.

The CBI filed a charge-sheet on the basis of an FIR registered on October 1, 2011, alleging Shivalingamurthy entered into a criminal conspiracy with the other accused and abused his official position as director of mines with a dishonest and fraudulent intention to cheat the Karnataka government. The case was investigated following the apex court's direction on March 29, 2011.

He was accused of creating a false note that he had discussed with the deputy director (legal) and directed deputy director, Mines and Geology, Hospet for issuing mineral dispatch permits (MDPs) to Reddy and his wife, new partners of AMC in violation of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and Mineral Concession Rules, 1960.

The CBI alleged that this was a case which under the rules ought to have gone to the state government for prior sanction but it came to be dealt with by the petitioner as director of mines.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner, he had acted bona fide and directed for issuance of permits in the name of AMC which was granted a lease in 1966. The firm was reconstituted a number of times, with the induction of the Reddys on September 1, 2009.

Going by the factual matrix, the court, however, noted that two of petitioner's subordinates, including the additional director, did recommend that the matter required legal opinion. The noting, undisputed in this case, made by the petitioner was that he had spoken to deputy director (legal), who had taken a stand before the CBI that he had not given any opinion.

The High Court had said that he cannot press for the defence at the threshold of charge framing. “He recommended issuance of MDPs in gross violation of the Act despite the office noting to the effect that the matter required legal opinion,” it had said.