Former CM under scanner after Mangalore-based newspaper filed a writ petition against him for flouting Audit Bureau of Circulation order to benefit the newspaper in January this year
A glaring instance of B S Yeddyurappa's alleged arm-twisting tactics has come to light after the director of a Mangalore based regional newspaper, Karavali Ale filed a writ petition at the High Court alleging that six respondents of the government collectively flouted rules set by the P Ramaiah Committee for the classification of newspapers.
B S Yeddyurappa wrote to various governmental departments seeking
to confer state level newspaper status to Hosa Digantha
MiD DAY is in possession of letters the former CM wrote to various governmental departments, which prove he misused his office to confer Hosa Digantha with status of a state level newspaper.
"This blatant abuse of power took place starting February this year. Hosa Digantha made a presentation to Yeddyurappa claiming that it had a circulation of over 1 lakh in 19 districts, following which he passed an 'Urgent Endorsement' directing the Secretary of the Department of Kannada, Culture and information to take action and confer state level status," said B V Seetaram, director and editor-in-chief, Karavali Ale.
The letter dated February 11, 2011 had Yeddyurappa's secretary insisting that the same be done immediately.
On March 16, the director of information wrote back to Yeddyurappa, opposing the same and marked a copy to the Secretary (Department of Kannada, Culture and Information).
"The director's letter clearly stated that such a move was not permissible under the rules and further pointed out that it would be an act of discrimination amongst other regional newspapers," said Venkatesh, lawyer representing Seetaram.
The department had suggested that such a status could be accorded to Hosa Digantha, only if special exemption was accorded in an order and the CM issues direction.
"The CM did so and passed an order and the department of information had to comply," added Venkatesh.
Responding on April 13, the Secretary issued direction based on the directive issued by Yeddyurappa to communicate the special exemption to the existing rules of classification of newspapers.
The Department of information further wrote to the Secretary stating that based on departmental statistics, Hosa Digantha had a total circulation of 57,628 in 19 districts. As per the P Ramaiah Committee, a state level newspaper is required to have a minimum circulation of 75,000 in the state, with a minimum of 1,000 copies circulated in each of the 30 districts.
"Hosa Digantha has not furnished mandatory certificate from the Audit Bureau of Circulation. As the newspaper has a circulation that is less than 75,000 copies and is circulated only in 19 districts, it is considered as a regional newspaper. It cannot be classified as a state level newspaper," the department of information communicated to the CM's office.
The petitioner argued whether the CM enjoys such discretionary powers to twist rules as per a particular party's agenda.
Misuse of power
"Even if he does enjoy such powers, he should use it to benefit the public and not to self serve a party organ. The Gyana Bharathi Prakashan Trust, which is an RSS trust, runs Hosa Digantha. Further, the newspaper has remained mum on the several controversies and scams involving Yeddyurappa's government," said Seetaram.
According to the report of the P Ramaiah Committee, which is accepted by the government, the tariff is fixed at Rs 220 per column centimeter for a State level newspaper. Documents prove that since 2009 itself, Hosa Digantha started getting government advertisements at the rate of Rs 458 per column centimeter.
'Don't embarrass me'
When questioned by this reporter, both the CEO of Hosa Digantha and Director of Department of Information, Muddu Mohan feigned ignorance on the matter. "We received the status of a state level newspaper through legal means. We have stuck to the guidelines issued by the ABC and these are tactics to defame us," said Prakash, CEO, Hosa Digantha.
On pointing out that MiD DAY is in possession of copies of the letters written by various ministers, including the CM and also an audited copy from the ABC, where their circulation figures are not as specified by law, he added, "We are law abiding people and rivals with vested interests are behind this," Prakash said.
Further, Mohan who passed the order on Yeddyurappa's insistence said, "Please do not embarrass me with these documents. Our job is to pass all orders the government notifies in its wisdom," he said. Meanwhile, the case is now listed in the High Court and will come up for hearing next week.