Bangalore: Karnataka Lokayukta N Santosh Hegde on Wednesday indicted Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa for his role in the state’s illegal mining business and alleged that he received kickbacks for favouring mining barons.
“The illegal mining business has caused a loss of Rs 16,085 crores to the state’s exchequer between 2006 and 2010,” Hegde said addressing a press conference after submitting a huge 25,228-page long explosive report on illegal mining before the chief secretary SV Ranganath.
“Worst offences have been recorded in Karnataka’s Bellary district. Illegal mining business runs unabated in Tumkur, Chitradurga and other districts,” he said.
In a damning evidence against the Chief Minister, Justice Hegde claimed that Yeddyurappa and his family have been beneficiaries of the largesse of mining companies. “A mining company named the South West Mining Company, owned by Jindals, had donated Rs 10 crore to a trust owned by Chief Minister`s family members. The company also purchased one acre of land for Rs 20 crore from the trust far above the guidance value. This makes for an offence under Prevention of Corruption Act,” the Lokayukta said.
"This has led to the incontrovertible conclusion on my part that these payments were made for reasons other than genuine", Hegde asserted.
The report further alleges that an educational trust run by the Chief Minister`s family allegedly received large sums of money in donations from mining companies.
Besides Chief Minister Yeddyurappa, Hegde’s report indicts former chief minister Kumaraswamy, in addition to the influential Bellary brothers G Janardhan Reddy and G Karunakara Reddy.
The names of Housing Minister V Somanna and Health Minister B Sriramulu also figure in the final report. JD(S) leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and Congress MP Anil Lad are also named in the report.
In the case of Kumaraswamy, the report indicts him for giving mining licenses, in violation of the law, to Jantkal mining company and Sai Venkateshwara Minerals.
Hegde also refuted the Reddy brothers’ claim that they had nothing to do with mining in Karnataka.
"We have enough documents to prove to the contrary," claimed Hegde.
Justice Hegde has also sought an investigation into the role of Congress Rajya Sabha MP Anil Lad in the illegal mining business in Karnataka.
“The report, which is the work of my dedicated team, had to examine over four lakh records and had to collect nearly 50 lakh entries to reach the conclusion. The report highlights the illegalities and irregularities at various stages of the illegal mining operation right from the start to the end,” he added.
Lokayukta Hegde also came down heavily on the Yeddyurappa-led BJP government for its failure to curb rampant illegal mining.
The report slams Yeddyurappa for retaining the tainted Bellary brothers in his Cabinet.
The enquiry has found large scale involvement of officials, powerful people both in the Administration as well as in the ground level.
“Since Supreme Court is monitoring the illegal mining activity in Karnataka, I am sure the honorable court will take cognizance and will look into the report,” Justice Hegde said.
The Karnataka Lokayukta has made recommendations to prosecute everybody involved in the mining scam under Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), Forest Act, Mines Minerals Regulation and Development Act and other laws.
“The actions should be taken in accordance with the law,” Hegde recommended.
“The amount should be assessed and recovered from the persons and firms four times the value of the loss,” he said.
Justice Hegde has also submitted a copy of the report to the Governor H R Bharadwaj and recommended the prosecution of Chief Minister under section 12(3) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1961. “Governor is the competent authority to take action against the Chief Minister, " he said.
Hegde hoped that the government would take suitable action against those named in the report as contemplated in law and recover loss that is caused.
"Once illegal mining is stopped the Central and the State government can recover lakhs of crores of rupees as Excise and VAT," he said, adding over 100 companies were involved in illegal mining.
Hegde who is retiring on August 2, said that he would not have been replaced if he had kept quiet on the illegal mining issue. He made it a point to wish his successor Justice Shivraj Patil all the best.
The indictment of Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa in the illegal mining racket has put enormous pressure on the BJP leadership to drop its tallest leader in Karnataka and find his replacement.
Yeddyurappa, who rode out the storm earlier-- whether the challenge to his leadership by dissidents or allegations of de-notification of land-- in his three-year tenure, said he would study the report and will "take appropriate action".
The Chief Minister held confabulations with loyalist ministers and senior party leaders yesterday and put up a brave front saying he would continue in his post for another two years, till the end of his term, but also said he would abide by the decision of the party high-command.
In Delhi, the BJP central leadership -- concerned over the fate of its only government in the south -- had adopted a wait and watch approach.
Shortly after submission of the report, a worried BJP leadership summoned Yeddyruppa, its first chief minister in South to Delhi, as a section of the party is said to be of the view that he should be removed. The party clarified it will go through the voluminous report before taking any decision.
Yeddyurappa is the first ever chief minister in the state to be indicted by Lokayukta under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.