Sunday, Nov 30, 2003
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By S.K. Ramoo
It is stated that the large-scale distribution of fake stamp papers within the State for such a long period would not have been possible without the collusion of influential politicians and police personnel. It is difficult to imagine how the kingpin of the scandal, Abdul Karim Telgi, alias Karim Lala, could have established a wide network for the circulation of fake stamp papers without involving some higher-ups in the administration. When heads of several politicians and police officers have rolled in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, not a single politician or a senior police officer in Karnataka has been implicated.
The constitution of a special court "in haste", for trying the main accused, has reinforced public apprehension that the Government is trying to shield those involved in the scandal.
The skeletons are sure to tumble out of the cupboard once the CBI takes up the investigation. The dramatic volte-face of the Maharashtra Government, which has agreed to hand over the investigation to the CBI, can be an eye-opener for the Karnataka Government. It is common knowledge that the CBI, with its long reach, is endowed with the right credentials to probe the scandal which has nation-wide ramifications.
The Allahabad High Court's recent verdict that the scam be handed over to the CBI for investigation has rattled the Karnataka Government. It is yet to fully grasp the legal angle. It will have to cooperate with the CBI or incur public wrath and suspicion.
The legal position, however, is clear as the Karnataka police can proceed with its investigation involving crimes committed in the State. According to jurists, it can also proceed with the sittings of the Special Court and, at the same time, the CBI can also proceed with its investigation and question persons from the State allegedly involved in the scandal. This is because the scandal has a common perpetrator in Karim Lala. It is reported that the Karnataka police have chargesheeted the main accused under the Stamp Act and other provisions of the IPC which, according to jurists, are not substantive enough to unearth the full magnitude of the scam.
It is surprising that the Government has not vehemently denied the involvement of a Minister and his brother as alleged by the Opposition. The Chief Minister's vague reply on the issue recently has deepened the mystery.
There are indications that the Congress High Command may eventually compel the Karnataka Government to fully cooperate with the CBI. The State party unit is in a vulnerable position as it cannot afford any ignominy when the Assembly elections are less than a year away. The Opposition leaders are waiting to capitalise on the situation. The Krishna Government is sure to face acute embarrassment if its public image is tarnished in any way.
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