Arkavathy Layout row: probe panel gives CM a clean chit?

The Justice H.S. Kempanna Commission that probed allegations of illegal denotification of land in Arkavathy Layout in Bengaluru is said to have given a clean chit to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah three years after it was formed after a huge political storm. Even before the report has been made public, the commission has drawn sharp criticism from the Opposition BJP, which had alleged that the Chief Minister was a “direct beneficiary”.

The commission submitted a four-part, 1,861-page report to Chief Secretary Subhash Chandra Khuntia on Wednesday, the contents of which are still under seal.

According to sources, the commission has indicted various Land Acquisition Officers (LAO) of Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), from 2010 to 2014, along with a few Urban Development Department (UDD) officials. They have been indicted for dropping notified land from acquisition though it did not satisfy any of the six guidelines to do so, as laid down by the 2005 High Court order.

The commission was constituted in August 2014 after the Arkavathy Layout re-modification scheme of June 2014, which led to dropping of 983.33 acres from the 2004 final notification. Of the 983.33 acres, the BJP alleged Mr. Siddaramaiah had dropped 541 acres of which he was a direct beneficiary, and demanded a CBI probe.

A 2005 High Court order, hearing petitions of several landowners, had laid down six guidelines to drop land from acquisition and asked the BDA to “re-do” all the land notified. The State government appointed four LAOs for the purpose in June 2010, after the Supreme Court upheld the 2005 High Court order. Crucially, the then Advocate-General had opined that these officers were quasi judicial authorities and hence their decisions could only be subjected to judicial review. The quasi judicial nature of LAOs has come as a blessing in disguise for the BDA Commissioner and Chief Minister, who signed on the re-modification scheme, sources said.

Senior advocate Doreraju, who appeared for the BJP before the commission, alleged: “The proceedings of the commission was only an eyewash. Most of our interim applications were rejected. The commission refused to call either Mr. Siddaramaiah or Leader of the Opposition Jagadish Shettar for deposition. The commission did not even take initiative to find 42 crucial records that were claimed to be missing,” he said, adding that he was considering approaching the Supreme Court if the commission gave the Chief Minister and the BDA commissioner a clean chit.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 7:10:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/arkavathy-layout-row-probe-panel-gives-cm-a-clean-chit/article19548253.ece

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