Karnataka Lokayukta Justice N. Santosh Hegde, who has prepared a damning indictment of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and others on the mining scam, on Saturday pinned his hopes on the Supreme Court for action on the report which he will present to the Government and not the Governor.
As the BJP leadership worked on strategies to deal with the situation, demands for removal of Mr. Yeddyurappa also surfaced from within the party.
BJP vice-president Shanta Kumar dashed off a letter to party president Nitin Gadkari and senior leader L K Advani demanding that Mr. Yeddyurappa be removed immediately since BJP’s image throughout the country was getting tarnished by his continuance in office.
Mr. Hegde, who demits office on August 2, said his endeavour is to submit the report on Monday or Tuesday but indicated that there could be some delay.
“Government will not act on it (the report)”, Hegde told PTI in an interview. “But my only hope is Supreme Court,” he said.
Mr. Hegde said the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has taken his first report on illegal mining submitted in December 2008, and “relied upon it” and he expects it to do it this time as well.
Mr. Hegde, however, said it was not mandatory for the Government to accept his report, which has raised a political storm after the leaked document strongly indicted Mr. Yeddyurappa.
Sources in the Lokayukta said the final report on the mining scam will not be submitted to Mr. Bhardwaj as it was the Government which referred the case to the former Supreme Court judge and not the Governor.
Sources also said that given the uneasy relationship between Mr. Bhardwaj and Mr. Yeddyurappa, who have been often at loggerheads, Hegde does not want to land in a controversy by deviating from norms and face accusations of being biased.
But Lokayukta sources said the Governor can call for a copy of the report and make recommendations to the Government on what it needs to do in his advisory capacity.
The Governor said on Friday ”...And if as a competent authority (the Governor), if he (the Lokayukta) sends the report to me, then I will deal with it according to the Lokayukta Act (section 12 and 13)“.
“I will give my serious thought to whatever he (Lokayukta) recommends and you will know my action the moment I get the report”, Mr. Bhardwaj had said.
Lokayukta has indicted Mr. Yeddyurappa and four other ministers on illegal mining, which the anti-corruption watchdog says caused a loss of Rs 1,800 crore to the state exchequer in 14 months from March 2009.
Four ministers, including three from the mineral-rich Bellary district, have also been indicted by the Lokayukta.
Mr. Hegde said the apex court is monitoring the illegal activity in mining area in Karnataka and it has expressed very strongly that they (the government) completely stop mining in Bellary.
“And I have evidence and other things of illegality going on in Bellary; I have put it in my report. And I am sure the CEC which is collaborating with us (Karnataka Lokayukta) also... Their object is the same as mine (of) curbing illegal mining. They may take the report (to be submitted next week) and place it before the Supreme Court,” he added.
Mr. Hegde, a member of the joint drafting committee on the Lokpal bill, appeared not surprised by Chief Minister’s statement that there was no need for him to resign.
”...and each one when it comes to respective politicial parties... when it comes to their personal conduct and all that... they will justify it anyway (that they have done no wrong)”, he said.
Mr. Hegde was in agreement that it’s not mandatory for the Government to accept his report. “Lokayukta report will only recommend what’s happened and what should be done about it, and anybody who is accountable or responsible should take action on that...” .
Based on the information in the report, he said Lokayukta can certainly prosecute those who had been named in it but added that the first opportunity is for the Government to act upon it. “If criminal activities are noticed, liability is noticed, we can prosecute” but it’s “left to the next man (his successor)“.
Karnataka government meanwhile asserted it had not ordered tapping of telephone of Mr. Hegde, who has now hinted at the possible involvement of a political party behind it.
“Government has not ordered (tapping of Hegde’s phone)”, Chief Secretary S V Ranganath told PTI when contacted. “We have not authorised anything“.
Asked if he is convinced that the State Government is behind his phone-tapping, Hegde said: “I would not say Government; but political party might be there (behind the phone-tapping)...I don’t know, that I don’t want to comment...I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to join issue on phone tapping“.
Mr. Hegde early this week said his phone had been tapped.