Six years after a Lokayukta report indicted two Karnataka Chief Ministers N. Dharam Singh and H.D. Kumaraswamy, the Supreme Court yesterday ordered a probe into the role played by the two politicians in de-reserving 11,797 square kilometres of forest in Ballari district, leading to large-scale illegal iron ore mining.
However, another former Chief Minister S.M. Krishna, who recently joined the BJP, got relief as the Apex Court said that the investigation against him “shall remain stayed” for now on grounds that the then Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde had not found any evidence against him.
The probe will be conducted by the State’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) and it will have to report its findings to the SC within three months. A bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and R.F. Nariman also restrained all other courts from passing any order in the matter and said, “We will keep it pending and we want to monitor it.”
Abraham T. Joseph, a businessman and social activist, had approached a trial court seeking registration of an FIR against various persons including the three former CMs alleging that they connived with several bureaucrats and others in de-reservation of forest land in Ballari.
The trial court had ordered registration of FIRs against Krishna, Dharam Singh, Kumaraswamy and 10 others. Krishna had moved the SC in 2011 and got a stay on the investigation on grounds including that he has not been indicted by Lokayukta.
Besides the three former CMs, various senior officials were accused of conspiracy and corruption. It was alleged that Dharam Singh ordered issuance of temporary transport permits for the movement of iron and manganese ore from agricultural patta lands, resulting in a loss of Rs. 23.22 crore to the government.
The complaint had alleged that Kumaraswamy had illegally approved a mining lease in 550 acres of land in favour of Shree Sai Venkateshwara Minerals and committed illegalities relating to Jantkal Mining Company.
Senior officials named in the complaint by Joseph included Gangaram Baderia, Basappa Reddy, I.R. Perumal, Jija Harisingh, Mahendra Jain, K.S. Manjunath, Ramappa, Shankarlingaiah and V. Umesh.