Never has so many people with power and influence faced action by a tough judiciary

Has public life in Karnataka plunged to a new low, or is it the beginning of a clean-up by the judiciary in the wake of the anti-corruption mood sweeping the country? Suddenly the long arm of the law is reaching high-profile public figures — one-time movers and shakers of State politics — including former Chief Ministers, former Ministers, and even popular film stars.

In Karnataka the spirited fight by the former Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde against corruption has also undoubtedly made a difference.

Lokayukta resignation

Indeed, such is the strong anti-corruption mood that Lokayukta Shivaraj Patil tendered resignation to his post after finding himself in the eye of a controversy over the alleged violation of cooperative housing society rules in securing posh sites in his and his wife's name.

While the then Chief Minister and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's powerful leader, B.S. Yeddyurappa, had to step down following his indictment in the (previous) Lokayukta's report on illegal mining, the same report is tormenting his detractor and the former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy too. Both the leaders, who traded charges against each other, have now been making serial visits to courts in connection with corruption cases. The prospect of their bail plea being turned down is a scary reality for them, a situation unthinkable a year ago.

All in the family

Of them, Mr. Yeddyurappa and his family members, including his son and MP B.Y. Raghavendra, are facing 17 instances of illegalities and charges of corruption, which have been classified into seven cases. These include six private complaints; and FIRs have been filed in two cases.

These cases have been filed under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (criminal breach of trust, cheating, criminal conspiracy and related to forgery), the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Karnataka Land (Restriction on Transfer) Act.

Mr. Kumaraswamy and his wife Anita, who is an MLA, have been accused of misusing their position and employing corrupt practices in allegedly granting mining licences to Jantakal Mining Company Ltd. and bulk allotment of land to the Vishwa Bharati House Building Cooperative Society in exchange for a plot in the layout formed by the society.

The high-flying former Minister and mine-owner G. Janardhan Reddy, who modestly described himself recently as “24-carat gold”, got his comeuppance when the CBI arrested him in connection with cases filed under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Indian Forest Act and the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act. He is now lodged in Chanchalguda Central Prison in Hyderabad.

Influential BJP leader and former Minister Katta Subramanya Naidu and his councillor-son Katta Jagadish were the first to be refused bail by a special Lokayukta court, and are in judicial custody in connection with a land scam. The former Minister Krishnaiah Setty and MLA Hemachandra Sagar are co-accused in a case related to a land denotification scam involving Mr. Yeddyurappa.

Corporate fraud

Actor-turned Forest Minister C.P. Yogeshwar is the latest politician to be in the dock as the Serious Fraud Investigating Office has charged him with corporate fraud, forgery and cheating investors of Rs. 37 crore by promising them sites in his private township. And now, the glam world. Here too a tough court remanded actor Darshan Toogudeepa to judicial custody, after his wife filed a complaint of torture and death threats to her and their three-year-old son. Though she withdrew the complaint, the court held firm and he continues to be in judicial custody.

There has always been public knowledge of corruption in high places — with an equal measure of cynicism over the corrupt being brought to book. The new element in the situation is the toughness shown by the judiciary, including the lower courts, with respect to petitions seeking bail and anticipatory bails.

It is also interesting to see if various regulators and government agencies too respond to the anti-corruption mood by adopting tough postures against the corrupt and violators of law.