Audio clip row: Speaker 'advises' SIT probe

Audio clip row: Speaker 'advises' SIT probe

An emotional Kumar started the Assembly proceedings by bringing up the clip

Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar

Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar on Monday “advised” the State government to constitute a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the controversial audio clip that makes bribery charges against him. The BJP, however, opposed a government probe. 

“This is not a direction. I’m advising the chief minister to form a SIT and ascertain the truth on who said it, why it was said and whether it really happened,” Kumar said, adding that the SIT should “give me respite in 15 days.”

The audio clip, on which the Assembly witnessed a serious three-hour discussion, was released by Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy last week. The clip allegedly involves BJP state president BS Yeddyurappa and BJP legislator Shivanagouda Naik trying to lure the son of a JD(S) legislator. 

At one point, a voice on the clip is heard claiming that the Speaker had been “fed” with Rs 50 crore to accept resignations of disgruntled MLAs to topple the government. The audio clip has created political ripples across the country, with the matter figuring in discussions in the Parliament, too. 

An emotional Kumar started the Assembly proceedings by bringing up the clip. “I’ve spent the last two nights in distress and I’m in pain,” Kumar said. “My apprehension is that someone who is a member of this House is in the audio clip casting aspersions on me," he said, remembering his late mother.

READ: Audio clip war set to rock Assembly session

At one point, Kumar suggested that he might consider stepping down in the backdrop of bribery allegations. However, members cutting across party lines urged him not to be "emotional" and step down. 

BJP members Jagdish Shettar, Govind Karjol, JC Madhuswamy and others opposed the Speaker’s request to the government to form a SIT. “We don’t have faith in the probe this government will conduct,” Shettar said. The BJP demanded that the Speaker name his own inquiry committee. 

The Speaker, however, justified his ruling. “When criminal proceedings are initiated, there are 2-3 important stages - there’s a first information report (FIR), then charges come, then details will have to come in the charges. Here, there are material facts and material evidence. The material fact, in this case, is that the Speaker's name has been mentioned and that a deal had been struck. This is a material fact. I've requested the chief minister to form a SIT to collect particulars based on this material fact,” Kumar explained.

The Speaker, he pointed out, cannot order a particular type of investigation. “I can only give suggestions. This case doesn’t want a House committee. Also, I’m not inclined for a judicial probe because it’s a long drawn process. But for how long should I remain in oscillation? That’s why I’ve asked for respite in 15 days,” Kumar said. 

READ: 'Ready to retire if audio tape proved to be fabricated'