In a big relief to the JD(S) President and former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, a sessions court in Bengaluru granted the leader anticipatory bail in the Janthakal mining scam.
On Monday, the Lokayukta Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is probing the illegal mining cases in the state, arrested senior IAS officer Gangaram Baderiya for allowing a mining company to extract iron ore after receiving a bribe of Rs 10 lakh through a cheque.
Since former Chief Ministers HD Kumaraswamy and Dharam Singh are also accused in the scam, Kumaraswamy had applied for the anticipatory bail.
The JD(S) leader moved the court by stating that there was immense pressure on him from the Chief Minister’s office to sign certain documents when he was the CM. The SIT officials were planning to serve a notice to HD Kumaraswamy and hence, he applied for the anticipatory bail.
The allegations in the case are that permission was granted to Janthakal Enterprises, a company owned by mining baron Vinod Goel, to extract iron ore on the basis of two forged letters of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
At the time (2007), Baderiya was director of the Mines and Geology Department and Kumaraswamy was the Chief Minister. The complaint filed by activist Vinod Kumar alleges that Baderiya had accorded permission based on the letters issued by the MoEF, which were forged by Goel. Immediately after the permission was accorded, Janthakal Enterprises lifted and transported 1.70 lakh MT of iron ore.
The Lokayukta report on illegal mining (part-2) had stated that Janthakal Enterprises had submitted forged MoEF no objection certificates to extract and transport iron ore in Chitradurga. Goel’s application seeking permission to extract iron ore was pending before Baderiya in 2007.
Kumar alleged that a mining lease was granted at Hirekandawadi and Tanigehalli villages of Holalkere taluk, Chitradurga, to Janthakal Enterprises. The lease was granted in 1965 to K Raghavendra Rao, which later Janthakal claimed was transferred in its favour in 1967.
The lease was renewed twice under Section 8(2) of Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act through two gazette notifications after a gap of 22 years on July 23, 2007, during Kumaraswamy’s tenure as Chief Minister.
The Lokayukta’s second report on illegal mining has an interesting note by Gangaram Baderiya before the permission was accorded to Janthakal Enterprises. The noting was made when HD Kumaraswamy was the Chief Minister.
Kumaraswamy was arrested and released on anticipatory bail in August 2015 in a case of granting mining lease to Sri Sai Venkateshwara Minerals (SSVM), which is also owned by Goel. This case was registered by the SIT based on certain illegalities in granting mining lease to SSVM, which was mentioned in the Lokayukta’s second mining report.
According to the report by the Lokayukta, out of the 29 applications received by the Director of Mines and Geology for iron ore mining in Sandur taluk of Ballari district, SSVM’s was the last application. The report also states that on October 5, 2007, when SSVM’s file was placed before Kumaraswamy for consideration, the CM had attached a note to the file, directing the officials to consider SSVM for the lease.
On Wednesday, lawyers representing the SIT requested the court to not grant Kumaraswamy bail, while stating that he would tamper with evidence and that Kumaraswamy had not appeared for questioning, which was scheduled for Wednesday itself.
Kumaraswamy’s lawyer, Hashmat Pasha, on the other hand, argued that the SIT had not issued summons for Kumaraswamy to appear for questioning and said that the JD(S) leaders would offer his complete cooperation with the SIT’s investigation.
The court has also ordered Kumaraswamy to appear before the SIT for questioning within 7 days.