In what could be a major relief for Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah with less than a year to go for assembly polls, a judicial commission probing the controversial denotification of Arkavathy Layout may have reportedly given him a clean chit.
According to multiple media reports, the one-man commission headed by Justice Kempanna (retired) in its report has said that the denotification was done legally following government laws and guidelines of the Karnataka High Court and Supreme Court. The sealed 1861-page report was submitted to Karnataka chief secretary Subhash Chandra Khuntia on Wednesday.
According to reports, some land acquisition officers of Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and Urban Development Department have been found guilty of wrongdoing while Siddaramaiah has not been implicated.
"I have completed my task after studying all aspects of the complaints received about the alleged irregularities in development of the Arkavathy Layout. Now it is up to the government to decide the future course of action," Justice Kempanna told reporters.
The Hindu quoted senior advocate Doreraju, appearing for the BJP in the commission, as saying, “The proceedings of the commission were 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 added that the party would consider approaching the apex court once the report is made public.
The judicial commission was formed in 2014 after opposition parties— BJP and the JD (S) alleged that the CM was a direct beneficiary of the said denotification of 541 acres of land and demanded a CBI probe.
Leader of the Opposition Jagadish Shettar had alleged in the state Assembly that the denotification was done by Siddaramaiah to raise party funds in 2014.
“The land has been denotified in the name of re-modification of the layout project and on the pretext of implementing a court order,” he said.
“The file (recommending denotification of land) had come to me when I was the chief minister in 2013. But I rejected it as it was against the guidelines. The denotification was done by this government in order to raise funds for the recent parliamentary elections,” he added.
Incidentally, former CM and BJP’s chief ministerial face BS Yeddyurappa was arrested in 2011 in connection with the denotification. Companies connected to leaders of the JD(S) and Congress were also alleged to have been involved in the case.
According to a report by The Indian Express, the BDA in 2001, during SM Krishna’s tenure as CM, had proposed a low-cost housing scheme in north-east Bengaluru.
Sensing an opportunity, real estate companies soon bought lands from farmers at low rates following the announcement and made windfall gains by selling lands to BDA at a higher price.
The issue came to light when some farmers approached the Karnataka High Court which quashed the acquisition of land in April 2005. But later the same year, a division bench upheld the acquisition while stipulating that the land had to be denotified in special cases.
Later, the case went to the Supreme Court in 2010, which said that denotification had to be done under six specified conditions while clearing the project.