Top court stays ACB probe against R Ashoka in land scam

Top court stays ACB probe against R Ashoka in land scam

R Ashoka. DH file photo.

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the investigation launched by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) against former deputy chief minister of Karnataka, R Ashoka in a case related to regularisation of unauthorised occupation of lands in what was known as 'bagair hukum land scam'.

A bench of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao accepted the plea made by the senior BJP leader for stay on probe, and issued notice to the Karnataka government on a special leave petition filed by him challenging the Karnataka High Court’s judgement of September 25.

The High Court of Karnataka had then asked the ACB to continue investigating the “illegalities” in regularisation orders passed between 1998 and 2007 by the committee for regularisation headed by Ashoka.

“Until further orders, there shall be stay of operation of the impugned order passed by the High Court,” the bench directed. The court put the matter for further consideration on November 26.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Ashoka, contended the present proceedings have been “maliciously” instituted with an ulterior motive to harass him. He submitted that a complaint was first filed on November 9, last year, but no FIR was registered. But with a political motivation now the machinery has been used by a rival political party member, though there was no allegations of him of having fraudulently misappropriated any property for his own use, he contended.

The counsel said the similar complaint was made before the Lokayukta in 2013 and the investigation has not concluded but the same set of allegations were used by S Anand on January 3, this year, which was converted into an FIR five days later. "Two parallel investigations were violations of his fundamental rights," the counsel said.

Rohatgi also said there was unexplained delay of over 20 years as well. He also pointed out there was no previous sanction taken for initiating the proceedings.

The bench, however, asked him, “You are thrust on time but what about the serious allegations.” Rohatgi contended it was all due to political rivalry and malign the image of petitioner before the elections.

Additional Advocate General Devdatt Kamat and advocate Joseph Aristotle, representing the state government, opposed Ashoka’s contentions. Kamat said that the matter was still at investigation stage, which should not be impeded at this stage. The question of sanction would arise at the time of taking cognisance of charge-sheet by a court, he said.

The court, however, stayed the high court’s order and sought the response from the state government as well as the complainant.

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