Apex court tells CBI to probe graft charges against Yeddyurappa
The directive by the apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Swatanter Kumar came even as Yeddyurappa and ministers and legislators supporting him launched yet another bid in Bangalore to oust Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda.
The CBI will probe charges that 'Prerana Trust' run by Yeddyurappa's sons, one of whom is a Bharatiya Janata Party Lok Sabha member from Karnataka, received Rs.10 crore donation from a South West Mining Corp of Jindal group.
Another charge is that Bhagat Homes Private ltd and Dhavalgiri Property Developers ltd, both run by Yeddyuppa's kin, had received Rs.2.5 crore and Rs.3.5 crore, respectively, from businessman Praveen Chandra in return for granting of mining lease.
Yeddyurappa, BJP's first chief minister in Karnataka, quit July 31 last year over the same issues, four days after the then Lokayukta (ombudsman) N. Santosh Hegde recommended his trial. Gowda took over from him Aug 4.
Pronouncing the order, Judge Swatanter Kumar said: "The CBI shall undertake investigation in the most fair, proper and unbiased manner, uninfluenced by the stature of the persons and the political or corporate clout, involved in the present case."
The order further said: "It will be open to the CBI to examine and inspect the records of any connected matter pending before any investigating agency or any court."
The court said that all the proceedings, before any court, in relation to the matter entrusted to the CBI for investigation shall remain stayed till further orders of the apex court. The CBI shall complete its investigation and submit a report to a court of competent jurisdiction, with a copy to be placed on the file of the apex court, within three months.
The court further said that any investigation being conducted by any agency other than the CBI shall also not progress any further. The CBI shall complete its investigation uninfluenced by any order, inquiry or investigation that is pending on the date of passing of this order.
"The competent authority shall constitute the special investigating team, headed by an officer not below the rank of additional director general of police/additional commissioner forthwith," the order said.
Yeddyurappa, BJP's first chief minister in Karnataka, quit July 31 last year over the same issues, four days after the then lokayukta (ombudsman) N. Santosh Hegde recommended his trial. Gowda took over from him Aug 4.
Besides Yeddyurappam others who will come under CBI scanner include his two sons, B.Y. Raghavendra, the BJP MP from Shimoga, about 280 km from Bangalore, and B.Y. Vijayendra.
Reacting to the apex court directive, Yeddyurappa said he was confident of getting justice from the probe. "I will come out clean. I am confident of getting justice from the CBI probe," he told reporters in Nanjangud, about 160 km north of Bangalore.
Chief Minister Gowda, who was also in Nanjangud to attend a function, declined comment saying: "I can react only after getting full information."
In Bangalore, the opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular welcomed the apex court order.
The Congress went a step further and demanded immediate resignation of the BJP government in the state. "The BJP regime has lost moral authority to continue in office. It should quit immediately," Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka assembly Siddaramaiah, of Congress, told reporters.
Former chief minister and JD-S lok Sabha member H.D. Kumaraswamy said: "This will be a lesson to all against misusing power".
Yeddyurappa claims the support of around 70 of BJP's 120 legislators in the 225-member Karnataka assembly.
Around 40 legislators, including a few ministers, supporting him had been demanding for the last two days immediate convening of the party's legislature wing to take on Gowda.
They had launched signature campaign for the meeting following the leak of Gowda's March 26 letter to BJP chief Nitin Gadkari suggesting dropping from the cabinet of ministers supporting Yeddyurappa on the ground that they were indulging in anti-party activities.
The apex court ruling followed a recommendation by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), appointed by it, that the allegation of quid pro quo against Yeddyurappa and his kin be probed by the CBI.
The CEC recommendation came on a petition by a Karnataka-based NGO, Samaja Parivartana Samudaya.