Complainant has not been able to uncover the money trail leading to the accused
In his complaint before the Special Lokayukta Court against External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and MPs N. Dharam Singh and H.D. Kumaraswamy, RTI activist T.J. Abraham has alleged that policy decisions effected by them paved the way for illegal mining in Karnataka.
Based on the findings of the interim and final Lokayukta reports on illegal mining in the State, Mr. Abraham claimed that Mr. Krishna's decision to de-reserve forest areas was the beginning of illegal mining scam in the State. “He [Mr. Krishna] ignored the advice of the department secretary and ordered de-reservation. It led to all kinds of illegalities,” the complaint stated. His acts of “commission and omission” caused the exchequer a loss of over Rs. 50 crore.
The complainant said Mr. Dharam Singh ordered the issuance of temporary transport permits for movement of iron and manganese ore from agricultural patta lands, which resulted in a loss of Rs. 23.22 crore to the government.
Mr. Kumaraswamy, the complainant stated, approved a mining lease on 550 acres of land in favour of Shree Sai Venkateshwara Minerals and committed illegalities with the Janthakal Mining Company (JMC). The losses caused by his decision have not, however, been quantified.
It may be noted that similar allegations were levelled against Mr. Kumaraswamy in another complaint linking him to JMC. After the complainant failed to make out a coherent case, the High Court quashed the proceedings and imposed a fine of Rs. 1 lakh on him.
Presenting details, Mr. Abraham alleged that investments made by the relatives of the three principal accused were made using money received as kickbacks from mining companies for policy decisions favouring them.
However, a crucial difference between this case and those being faced by leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party is that while in the latter, the complainants and the investigating agency managed to uncover the various channels through which the kickbacks made their way into the coffers of the accused, Mr. Abraham has not managed to trace the money flow and prove that that they were made with ill-gotten wealth.
Sources in the Lokayukta said that the focus of their investigation would be to prove that the accused had made pecuniary gains as a direct result of their decisions.
The BJP has been pushing for an expansion in the scope of illegal mining report to include the ruling periods of the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular).
In a recent letter, the Commerce and Industries Secretary asked the Lokayukta to investigate and submit a report on mining activity undertaken from 2000 onwards. The letter referred to a Cabinet meeting where it was concluded that “the Lokayukta report has largely covered mining activities undertaken from 2008 onwards” in violation of the terms of reference.
BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Let the Congress party explain what its position is now for earlier they have been demanding Yeddyurappa's resignation. S.M. Krishna's position has become untenable.”
Another party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said: “We have been saying for sometime there were other Chief Ministers of Karnataka [other than B.S. Yeddyurappa] who should also be questioned on the issue of illegal mining. It is for the Congress to say how Mr. Krishna can continue as a Union Minister. We are not asking for his resignation [as of now] as our stated position is that we do not ask for resignation of a person till he is charge-sheeted.”