Special Lokayukta Court also orders 5,600 acres granted to firm be attached

The Special Lokayukta Court, which ordered a probe on Thursday against three former Chief Ministers and 27 others in connection with the Bangalore-Mysore expressway scam, also ordered that the amount collected as road toll by the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises Ltd. (NICE) over the last two years be attached or frozen. Apart from that, it ordered that 5,600 acres granted to NICE be attached.

Meaning, NICE will have to hand over an estimated Rs. 72 crore to the State government, failing which its properties equivalent to the toll collected will be attached. Sources in the Lokayukta police, who have been handed the probe, said NICE has been earning around Rs. 3 crore a month from toll collections.

The court’s order follows a complaint by activist T.J. Abraham who alleged that the expressway built by the company between Bangalore and Mysore was laid with bitumen instead of concrete.

Norms violated

Apropos of the court order to attach 5,600 acres granted to NICE, according to Mr. Abraham’s complaint, the company had violated norms and entered into a joint development agreement (JDA) with Ajmera Realty and Infra Ltd. to develop 250 acres out of the 5,600 acres granted to it by the State government for the expressway project. As the JDA between NICE and Ajmera did not specify where the 250 acres was, the court decided to attach the entire 5,600 acres.

As per procedure, NICE and Ajmera will be served with court notices seeking to know why the attachment should not be made absolute. It is now upon these companies to convince the court, failing which they face the prospect of losing the property permanently.

Major setback

The attachment order is being seen as a major setback to NICE that has been embroiled in controversy ever since it got involved in the Bangalore-Mysore expressway project.

‘Landmark decision’

Seeking to underline the significance of the attachment order, Mr. Abraham described it as a “landmark” decision that should set a precedent in all anti-corruption cases. He said: “Attachment of ill-gotten property by the court is at the very core of the spirit of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Such an order prevents the corrupt from continuing to enjoy the benefits of the property even as the source of the property is being probed.”

Police criticised

While hailing the court verdict, Mr. Abraham also expressed scepticism about the abilities of the Lokayukta Police which has been handed responsibility of the probe. “Given how the institution is being run now, I have little faith in the outcome of the investigation. But even if they submit a biased investigation report, it is unlikely that the court will allow the case to fall through.”