OTHERS

Obeidullah Sharief sets a record of sorts

BANGALORE, MARCH 24. The Chairman of the State Minorities Development Corporation, Mohamed Obeidullah Sharief, has acquired the dubious distinction of being the first politician in the State to be arrested on a charge of accepting a bribe.

The Lokayukta police arrested him on Tuesday. Sources in the anti-corruption agency said here on Wednesday that they have written to the Government seeking approval for framing charges against Mr. Sharief. Only after hearing from the Government can prosecution be launched.

Suspended

The Congress has acted swiftly against Mr. Sharief by suspending him from its membership.

It is also only for the second time in the 20-year history of the Lokayukta that a politician is being proceeded against. Hitherto, the Lokayukta was only publishing the names of legislators who failed to furnish their statement of assets. There was the commonly heard criticism that the Lokayukta, N. Venkatachala, who has been spearheading a drive against corrupt officials over the past four years, has not touched politicians.

He had proceeded against a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mysore, S.N. Hegde. But the Karnataka High Court quashed the case against Prof. Hegde.

Bribery charge

Mr. Venkatachala, a former Supreme Court judge, had also inquired into an allegation of bribe-taking against the former Congress Minister and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President V.S. Koujalgi. A contractor was purported to have videotaped Mr. Koujalgi accepting a bribe of Rs. 40,000 from him (contractor). Mr. Venkatachala exonerated Mr. Koujalgi, who was at that time a member of the Legislative Assembly.

Judicial inquiries

However, political leaders in the State have faced judicial inquiries with regard to allegations of corruption against them.

The late Kengal Hanumanthaiya, former Chief Minister, was the first to face a commission of inquiry headed by Justice Deo, a former judge of the erstwhile Nagpur High Court with regard to allegations regarding the construction of the Vidhana Soudha. But the commission was wound up.

The late Devaraj Urs, another former Chief Minister, and some of his Ministers had faced the Justice A.N. Grover Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Janata Party Government at the Centre. Devaraj Urs was indicted on a few counts.

The late Ramakrishna Hegde, also a former Chief Minister, had appointed a commission of inquiry against his son, Bharat Hegde, with regard to what is called the M.D. seat scandal. A former judge of the Allahabad High Court, Parameshwar Dayal, headed the commission. After Ramakrishna Hegde went out of office, the Congress Government at the Centre appointed the Justice Kuldip Singh Commission of Inquiry against him with regard to the Revajeethu and Lokhandawala construction company scandals. Hegde was indicted by the former Supreme Court judge.

However, it is of interest that though he faced a judicial inquiry for allotting land (Srinivagilu tank-bed in Koramangala) to the Mumbai construction company, the State Government or the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike has, in recent years, quietly allowed another land developer to build apartment blocks there. A layout has also come up there.

Notable case

But the most notable case of a Minister resigning from office following an inquiry ordered against him was that of the noted freedom fighter T. Siddalingaiya, the first president of the Mysore Congress after it was set up in 1934.

Siddalingaiya, who was a Minister in the Hanumanthaiya Cabinet, resigned in 1953 following what was called the "copper wire scandal." The Government of India ordered an inquiry against him under the former Election Commissioner of India, K.V.K. Sundaram.

Arrested, acquitted

A former Minister, Renuka Rajendran, had been arrested by the police in a case of cheating a youth who had applied for a post of police sub-inspector. She stood trial in 1981 along with her husband, a government official. They were acquitted by the magistrate R.G. Vaidyanatha.

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