THE KARNATAKA High Court on Tuesday refused to quash a 2015 corruption case against Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa over an alleged illegal denotification of government land and came down heavily on the state anti-corruption agency Lokayukta police for failing to complete investigations into the case over the past five years.
Yediyurappa had approached the High Court in 2019 with a plea to quash the corruption case taken up by the Lokayukta police in February 2015 based on a private complaint filed in a court in 2013 by one Vasudev Reddy. The complaint was over a decision Yediyurappa took when he was deputy chief minister in 2006 to allegedly release a parcel of government acquired land to private persons.
Yediyurappa approached the High Court with the plea that the case against one of the other accused persons – former industries minister R V Deshpande of the Congress party – had been quashed by the court on October 9, 2015. The High Court initially stayed the proceedings against Yediyurappa in April 2019.
On Tuesday, however, the court ruled that the case cannot be quashed. It refused to accept the submission by Yediyurappa’s advocates that he is accused in the very same FIR as Deshpande and that the case should be quashed since an investigation against him based on the very same FIR would be illegal.
“I find that distinct and separate allegations are made against the petitioner (accused No.2) which read as under:- The then Deputy Chief Minister Mr B S Yediyurappa also recklessly denotified land, disregarding the fact that the possession was taken and land was allotted to entrepreneurs,” Justice John Michael Cunha said in his order.
“This allegation prima facie discloses a cognizance offence in so far as the petitioner is concerned which needs to be investigated. A reading of the complaint clearly indicates that the petitioner is sought to be prosecuted for the independent act of denotification of the land done by him during his tenure as the Deputy Chief Minister,” he said.
The court also said that it would not be right for it to give a prima facie decision in a case “where all the facts are incomplete and hazy; more so, when the evidence has not been collected and produced before the Court…”
The judge said that the argument of a sanction not being obtained to prosecute Yediyurappa will not hold good since he was out of a public position when the FIR was lodged against him.
The court pulled up the Lokayukta for not completing the investigations against Yediyurappa between 2015 and 2019, when there was no stay on it. “Though, at this juncture, it cannot be said that – respondent No.1 has succumbed to the pressure of the petitioner, who has been holding the position of the Chief Minister of the State of Karnataka, yet respondent No.1 being an independent and impartial body entrusted with the duty to investigate into the misconduct of the public servants objectively cannot give rise to an impression in the mind of the general public that it is playing into the hands of the political bigwigs,” the court observed.
It, however, refrained from ordering any action against the Lokayukta police “lest it would prejudice the investigation”.
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