Karnataka Lokayukta Justice N. Santosh Hegde, whose "explosive"
probe report into the multi-crore mining scam in Karnataka has led
to a major crisis for BJP's first government in south India, says
the inquiry points to the criminal involvement of Chief Minister
B.S. Yeddyurappa as he also holds the mining portfolio.
"The report has enough evidence on the criminality of others, as
the scam led to theft of the state's property. There is also an
element of criminality on the part of the chief minister as he
heads the mining department and is responsible for all acts of
omission and commission in it," Hegde told IANS in an interview
The interview was conducted at his office on Dr. Ambedkar Vedhi,
adjacent to the Vidhana Soudha, the state assembly.
The quasi-judicial ombudsman office is to submit the voluminous
report to the state government this week. Leakage of vital
information, including key names, in the media has pushed the
three-year-old first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in
south India to the brink.
"The final report is more damning than the first one, which was
submitted to the government Dec 18, 2008 but no action taken on it
till date. If the government fails to act even after this report
is given, I am sure the Supreme Court will step in as it has taken
cognisance of the first report under section 7(2) of the Lokayukta
Act," Hegde, whose five-year term ends Aug 2, asserted.
"Even the state governor (H.R. Bhardwaj) can legally direct the
Lokayutka to take action against the chief minister and other
ministers for their role (direct or indirect) in the siphoning off
of the state's rich mineral wealth and abuse of office by the
stakeholders," Hegde pointed out.
Besides Yeddyurappa, Revenue Minister G Karunakar Reddy,
Infrastructure & Tourism Minister G. Janardhan Reddy, Health
Minister B. Sriramulu and Housing Minister V. Somanna figure in
the report along with Kumaraswamy, Congress Rajya Sabha member
Anil Lad and BJP lawmaker Anand Singh as direct beneficiaries of
the mining scam.
More than Yeddyurappa's direct involvement in the illegal mining
activity, it is his family, including his sons B.Y. Raghvendra and
B.Y. Vijayendra and son-in-law R.N. Sohan Kumar that reaped
windfall from the mining companies in the form of donations and
"As the chief minister holding the mining portfolio, Yeddyurappa
cannot be absolved of the various charges as the state's natural
wealth was plundered through the mining department under his
dispensation. There is enough evidence on how his family,
including sons benefitted and profited during his three-year
tenure from illegal mining activity," Hegde clarified.
"This is not the first time this government has been indicted by
my office, law courts and other statutory institutions. Though I
have made exhaustive recommendations on how to stop illegal mining
and other measures to protect the environment, forestry and the
mineral wealth, nothing has been done. The government's action
taken report is a joke as it more about action to be taken than
any action taken so far," Hegde told IANS.
Noting that the state government had been claiming that it banned
iron ore export since June 2010 and did not grant permits to
mining firms since the BJP came to power in May 2008, Hegde said
both activities have been going with impunity beyond the inquiry
period (2000-2010), causing a whopping loss of Rs.1,827 crore to
the exchequer over the last 14 months.
"We have to look into the illegal mining activity going on this
year also despite the state's claims to the contrary. We got
umpteen documents to prove that illegal mining was continuing in
Bellary district and the iron ore is exported from Krishnapatnam
port in Andhra Pradesh," Hegde noted.
Asked about the fate of his recommendations in the report after he
demits office Aug 2, Hegde said if the state government doesn't
act, Lokayukta can invoke its suo mottu powers to prosecute the
guilty officials and seek the governor's nod to file charges
against the ministers, legislators and lawmakers.
"I have not been able to get more powers from the state government
to strengthen the ombudsman institution. We have succeeded in
getting suo motto powers to prosecute up to the chief secretary
but not their political bosses," Hegde lamented.
Besides present and former ministers, politicians and lawmakers,
about 500-600 officials were indicted for their criminal role in
the massive scam.
"In the first report, I have analysed the wrongdoings happening
from granting the lease to export of the ore. Out of 160 leases,
95 are active mines and the rest are abandoned. We have found
licenses of the abandoned mines were being used for some illegal
purposes. I have indicted 55 firms with evidence against them and
asked the government to take action. I have also mentioned how at
every stage there is a wrong doing and how it should be stopped,"
Hegde, who was Supreme Court judge (1999-2005) and
solicitor-general of India (1998-99), was asked to inquire into
the large scale corruption and profiteering through illegal mining
in the state, especially in the mineral rich Bellary district from
2000 to 2006 with the connivance of officials.
The inquiry was ordered by former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy
in 2007 when he was heading the second short-lived coalition
government in the state between Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and BJP
when he was accused of taking bribes worth Rs.150 crore from the
mining barons in the state.
The probe period was extended up to 2010 by Yeddyurappa in
response to vociferous demand by the opposition parties as rampant
corruption, illegal mining and export of iron ore continued
(Fakir Balaji can be
contacted at email@example.com)