Updated: June 24, 2021 7:36:57 am
A Bengaluru court recently directed former prime minister HD Deve Gowda to pay Rs 2 crore to Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) Limited for ‘loss of reputation’.
The NICE had filed a case in the Additional City Civil and Sessions Court against statements made by Deve Gowda in 2011, in a Kannada TV channel interview.
The company said it sustained loss to its reputation due to the statements and claimed damages of Rs 10 crore.
In its ruling, the court said, “Deve Gowda has failed to substantiate the statements made by him in the TV interview. Therefore, there is nothing on record to show that the allegations made by the defendant (Deve Gowda) against the plaintiff Company (NICE) in the questioned interview are supported with any cogent documentary proof. ”
The order issued by judge Mallanagouda also restrained Deve Gowda from making defamatory statements against the company in the future.
What is the case
According to the complaint filed by the NICE, on June 28, 2011, in an interview to a Kannada news channel in the programme ‘Gowdara Garjane’, Gowda made slanderous allegations against the company and its promoter and Managing Director Ashok Kheny, who is also the former Bidar South MLA from Congress.
“In the said interview, Gowda has stated that the NICE company is looting public money and that the project the plaintiff Company is operating on Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (‘BOOT’) basis is a ‘LOOT project’. Further, the defendant has addressed the plaintiff Company and Ashok Kheny as ‘Land Mafia’,” the complaint read.
What is the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project by NICE
In 1995, the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project(BMICP) was cleared by Gowda himself when he was the Karnataka Chief Minister. The project later became the subject of a power struggle between the Deve Gowda family and the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise headed by Ashok Kheny, which implemented the project.
Plans for a rapid access way between Bengaluru and Mysuru began in 1988 when the Karnataka government, in an attempt to stagger the growth of Bengaluru, proposed expansion into the Bengaluru-Mysuru region by building an expressway with private participation.
In 1995, Deve Gowda was CM when the state floated the Bangalore Mysore Expressway project on a 30-year BOOT basis with real estate and toll fares identified as revenue streams for the private developer.
He signed an MoU with a consortium comprising M/s Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Incorporated and SAB Engineering and Construction Incorporated from the US, and M/s Kalyani Group Limited from India. The consortium assigned implementation of the project to NICE, a company created by it.
What is the present status of the project
The expressway, popularly known as the NICE road, is a 4- to 6-lane private toll road connecting Bengaluru and Mysuru.
When the project was planned, the world-class, access-controlled toll expressway was to reduce travel time between the two cities from over three hours to 75 minutes. With a self-sustaining townships thrown in and nearly 700 sqkm area around the project developed, a new economic region, the size of Singapore, was projected to emerge.
At present, only four km of the expressway, besides 41 km of peripheral road and an 8.5-km link road, have been completed.
The completed part of NICE road consists of a half-circle around Bengaluru city, starting from Electronic City and ending at Tumkur Road. It has access points at Electronic City, Bannerghatta Road, Kanakapura Road, Mysore Road, Magadi Road and Tumkur Road.
According to NICE, it has completed the road component of Section ‘A’ of the project substantially, and opened it to traffic. “The BMICP is the first project in the Country to use satellite imageries captured by the Indian National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), areal photograph and other various innovative methods like Geo-Information System (GIS) mapping, total station survey etc., to identify topography and lands needed for the projects,” NICE said in a statement to the court.
Why Gowda began opposing the project
Political opposition to the project began in late 2003, just prior to the 2004 polls, when an-out-of power Deve Gowda began accusing NICE of using the project for real estate business in association with ruling Congress leaders. Deve Gowda alleged that land in excess of requirement was acquired by NICE for the first phase of the project.
When Deve Gowda returned to power in association with the Congress in 2004, the Karnataka government opposed the project in the High Court. In the middle of an appeal against a single judge’s order to reduce land for the project by 40 per cent, a Deve Gowda government accused NICE of fraud, saying land was indeed acquired in excess.
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