The Supreme Court today ordered CBI probe against former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa for "serious illegalities" in mining activities in which he allegedly "misused his public office" for monetary benefits by extending favours to mining barons and corporates.
The apex court noted there was "an unfortunate state of affairs" prevailing for a "considerable time" during which the forest and minerals were illegally exploited involving politicians and corporate entities which requires probe by a competent and independent agency uninfluenced by the stature of the persons.
"The CBI shall undertake investigation in a most fair, proper and unbiased manner uninfluenced by the stature of the persons and the political or corporate clout, involved in the present case.
"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," a special Forest bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said.
The bench, also comprising justices Aftab Alam and Swatanter Kumar, stayed all pending proceedings before all judicial forums in connection with the case.
"The CBI shall complete its investigation and submit a report to the court of competent jurisdiction with a copy of the report to be placed on the file of this court within three months," the bench said posting the matter for perusal of CBI report on August 3.
The report of the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee had pointed out "undue favour" in respect of a land purchased by close relatives of Yeddyurappa for 40 lakh in 2006 and subsequently sold to South West Mining Ltd, an alleged "front company of JSW Steels Ltd" in the year 2010 for Rs 20 crores.
The court ordered that a special investigating team, headed by an officer not below the rank of Additional Director General of Police or Additional Commissioner be constituted for the probe.
The CEC had said a donation of Rs 20 crore was received by Prerna Education Society, a Yeddyurappa's kin's trust, from South West Mining Ltd.
It had also raised the issue of "alleged illegal export of iron ore" from Belekeri Port in Karnataka.
The apex court directed CBI to conduct a "comprehensive and specialized investigation into such events" saying protection of natural resources "is the constitutional duty of the state".
The court accepting the April 20 report of CEC said "in respect of the past actions, the only option is to examine in depth the huge monetary transactions which were effected at the cost of national wealth, natural resources, and to punish the offenders for their illegal, irregular activities".
It added that any investigation being conducted by any agency other than CBI shall also not progress any further in relation to the allegations made in CEC report of April 20.
The 46-page order made it clear that it would not prejudice the rights and contentions of any of the parties.
"We direct all the parties, the Government of the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and all other government departments of that and/or any other State, to fully cooperate and provide required information to CBI," it directed.
The court posted the matter for hearing on August 3, when it would also consider the next report of CEC on illegal mining in the region.
The apex court noted that the CEC conducted the preliminary inquiry with specific reference to companies like JSW and Adani and allegation that there was not only illegal extraction of iron ore but the mineral was being also extracted beyond the specified leased area.
It said CEC report had brought "new facts, subsequent events and unquestionable documents" on record to substantiate its recommendations.
"Various acts and transactions prima facie appear to be part of a same comprehensive transaction," it added.
The bench said a just, fair and proper investigation would demand probe by a specialized agency keeping in view the "dimensions of the transactions, the extent of money involved and manipulations alleged".
"To give an example to emphasize that this is a case requiring further investigation and is fit to be transferred to the specialized investigating agency, we may mention that the South West Mining Ltd was initially found to be a front company of JSW Steels Ltd.
"Thereafter all transactions were examined and the improper purchase of land and donations made by them came to light. These facts appear to be inherently interlinked," the bench said.
It noted that the CEC has pointed out "illegalities, irregularities and instances of misuse of public office committed for the benefit of the close relatives of the then Chief Minister, State of Karnataka".
Brushing aside the contention raised by companies that the CEC was enlarging the scope of the reference made to it, the bench said the court is exercising a very wide jurisdiction in national interest to ensure that there is no further degradation of the environment or damage to the forests and that illegal mining and exports are stopped.
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