Wadiyar’s asset: SC restrains action on ‘dummy bidder’

The Supreme Court, New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court has restrained the CBI and other authorities from taking any coercive action against one Narayanamurthy, who has been convicted and sentenced to three years jail term, in a case related to fraudulent auctioning of a property spanning 10 acres and worth Rs 8.5 crore of the former ‘Maharaja of Mysore’ for a meagre amount of Rs 21 lakh in 1995.

The properties were located adjacent to the Chamarajendra Zoological Garden, Mysuru, and belonged to late Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, who is the lineal descendant of former Maharaja of Mysore, and had dues amounting to Rs 7.51 crore to the Income Tax Department towards tax arrears.

Srikantadatta had written to then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh against the I-T officers for under-valuing properties worth crores of rupees, which led the CBI to register an FIR on February 5, 1996, against several persons including public servants.

A bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Surya Kant issued a notice to the CBI on a special leave petition filed by advocate Sanjay M Nuli on behalf of petitioner Narayanamurthy. 

The petitioner challenged the Karnataka High Court’s judgement of April 3, 2019, which confirmed the trial court’s order of conviction and sentence of three years imprisonment against him for acting as “dummy bidder” during the auctioning of properties on October 20, 1995.

After admitting his appeal for consideration, the top court directed, “No coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioner in the meantime.” The court granted him exemption from surrender.

In his plea, the petitioner contended there was nothing on record to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Even the said public auction was subsequently set aside by the Commissioner of Income Tax, he said.

He also claimed that there was no material to provide that he had either participated in the commission of the crime as alleged against him in the charge sheet, that he was one of the dummy bidders and he was working under Shyam Prasad Badekila (since deceased), in his chartered accountant’s profession.

The petitioner also contended that the offences of cheating and forgery were not made against him because he had no intention or motive to participate in the auction or cheat the Income Tax Department and there was no evidence to prove he received any commission or consideration for it. Further, no witness identified him as having participated in the auction, he said.

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