New Delhi, May 11 (IANS) In a setback to former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, the Supreme Court Friday ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the allegations that the Prerana Trust managed by members of his immediate family received a huge donation from the mining company favoured by him.
An apex court bench headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia also stayed all the proceedings relating to the matter before any court in Karnataka.
Pronouncing the verdict, Justice Swatanter Kumar said that upon completing the investigation the CBI will file its report before the competent court and that all agencies of the state will extend their cooperation to the investigating agency.
The apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC), which investigated the allegation of quid pro quo, had recommended the CBI probe. It had alleged irregularities in the grant of mining leases and that donations were made to the Prerana trust by the mining companies so favoured.
The Supreme Court last week on the recommendation of a green panel sought a CBI probe into donations by the mining firms to an NGO owned by relatives of Yeddyurappa.
The apex court’s forest bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Swatanter Kumar had given time till Saturday evening to Yeddyurappa’s senior counsel V. Giri to submit documents on court proceedings in cases recommended by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on environmental matters for a CBI probe.
The court had sought the documents after Giri said that all the aspects on which the CEC recommended a CBI probe were already under investigation on the direction of a special judge. He said the CEC recommendation should not be acted upon.
The court said if it had documents pointing to a strong prima facie case for investigation, it could not shut its eyes to these.
The documents before it clearly pointed to the violation of the Karnataka land acquisition act, the court said.
Giri said the CEC recommendation in respect of Yeddyurappa was similar to the one made earlier demanding a probe by the former Karnataka Lokayukta.
The plea seeking a Lokayukta probe was quashed by the Karnataka High Court. The same issue could not be resurrected by another agency for investigation by the CBI, Giri said.
The court was told that the country worked under a federal system and law and order was a state subject. The court could step in only if the state abdicated its responsibility.
Reiterating the earlier observation made by Chief Justice Kapadia, Justice Alam told Giri: “Don’t invite us to make adverse comments.” He asked Giri: “Has the high court said that this matter can’t be investigated at all by any investigating agency?”
Justice Swatanter Kumar had said that all the issues raised in the CEC report were interlinked and had to be investigated.
Chief Justice Kapadia had said: “If documents come before us, then under the law, we are obliged to hear the accused. (If we afford him a hearing) we would be setting a precedent that would be against the law and dangerous.”
“Should we hear you then we will ask you many questions,” Chief Justice Kapadia had told Giri.
“Leave aside the CEC report, what you have to say about these documents. Can’t we on the basis of these documents proceed and direct investigation?” he asked.
Pointing to the documents, Justice Alam had said, “These are prima facie offences under the state land acquisition act”.
The court said this when Giri repeatedly referred to the CEC report and to the plea of petitioner NGO Samaj Parivartan Samudaya’s counsel Prashant Bhushan.
Bhushan had told the court that the NGO sought the CBI probe because the institution of Lokayukta in the state was in a shambles as it was headless and the head of the police team working in it too had been moved out.
The CEC in its report recommended investigation by the CBI in three cases.
These involved the sale of land to M/s South West Mining Corp after its land use was changed from agriculture to non-agriculture (residential) and the link between the receipt of Rs.10 crore donation made to Prerana Educational Society by Jindal Group’s M/s South West Mining Ltd. for alleged receipt of illegal minerals by the M/s JSW Steel Ltd.
The committee, in its recommendation in the third case, sought investigation to find out if there was a link between payment of Rs.2.5 crore to M/s Bhagat Homes Private Ltd. and Rs.3.5 crore to M/s Dhavalgir Property Developers Ltd. and the grant of mining leases to Praveen Chandra, during Yeddyurappa’s tenure.
The CEC wanted the investigating agency to look into the allegation that there was a quid pro quo in these payments and allotment of mining leases to Chandra.