The alleged conspiracy was “only suspicion of the prosecution”, the judge said.

Why the court acquitted BS Yeddyurappa in the mining case
news BS Yeddyurappa Saturday, October 29, 2016 - 17:54

On October 26, Karnataka BJP President BS Yeddyurappa – or BSY as he is often called – said he was “vindicated”. The special CBI court in Bengaluru acquitted him and 12 others of all charges in a major allegation of corruption.

Yeddyurappa was accused of abusing his power as a government official when he was deputy chief minister between February 17, 2006 and February 6, 2007, and later as the chief minister of Karnataka from May 30, 2008 to July 31, 2011. 

During this time, he and his family members were accused of favouring JSW Steel in violating the law and cheating the Karnataka government of rightful revenues while personally benefitting from those decisions. 

However, Judge RB Dharmagoudar, XXI Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge and Principal Special Judge for CBI Cases, Bengaluru City, ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove any of the charges against the 13 accused, and acquitted them.

Here’s a simple explanation of the cases built by the prosecution and the defence, and the reasoning of the judge based on the evidence put forth by the two parties.

Accused:

1.      BS Yeddyurappa

2.      BY Vijayendra, Yeddyurappa’s son                                 

3.      BY Raghavendra, Yeddyurappa’s son 

4.      RN Sohan Kumar, Yeddyurappa’s son-in-law

5.      Prerana Educational and Social Trust, where Yeddyurappa’s sons are trustees

6.      SN Krishnaiah Setty, a former minister in the Yeddyurappa govt.

7.      South West Mining Ltd 

8.      JSW Steel

9.      Vinod Nowal, CEO and Director, JSW Steel

10.   Vikas Sharma, senior vice president JSW Steel

11.   Real Technical Solutions Pvt Ltd, 

12.   Jaibharath Technical Services Pvt Ltd,

13.   Industrial Techno Manpower Supply & Services Pvt Ltd

Charges 

All 13 were charged under sections 120b r/w 420, 109, 468, 471 of the IPC and Sections 7, 9, 11, 12, 13 (2) read with Section 13 (1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 and Section 9 read with Section 4 of the Karnataka Land (Restriction on Transfer) Act 1991. 

Meaning

The main charge was that all the accused entered into a criminal conspiracy to cheat the government of Karnataka by favouring JSW Steels Ltd. To achieve this, it was alleged that Yeddyurappa illegally denotified 1 acre 12 guntas of land in Bengaluru’s Rachenahalli area. This was then illegally and fraudulently purchased BY Raghavendra, BY Vijayendra and RN Sohan Kumar from the then minister SN Krishnaiah Setty. After getting the land converted, they sold it to South West Mining Company for Rs 20 crore. 

This transaction was allegedly carried out to cover up the donations (of Rs 20 crore) that were allegedly made to Prerana Trust by JSW Steels as quid pro quo for the favours shown by Yeddyurappa to JSW. The donations were made through South West Mining Ltd, Real Technical Solutions Pvt Ltd, Jaibharath Technical Services Pvt Ltd, Industrial Techno Manpower Supply & Services Pvt Ltd. 

Arguments 

The Special Public Prosecutor argued that there were two parts to the conspiracy. One part consisted of accused BS Yeddyurappa, his sons, son-in-law and Krishaniah denotifying 1 acre and 12 guntas of land in Rachenahalli. The land had been notified by BDA and the accused conspired to convert the land for non-agricultural use in violation of the Karnataka Land land Revvenue Rules. 

The second part of the conspiracy was allegedly between BS Yeddyurappa and his family members, and the rest of the accused. Yeddyurappa was alleged to have abused his official position to favour JSW Steel to fix the premium of iron ore at 50%; suppressed the loss by MML and imposed a ban on export of ore; and, as quid pro quo for the favour shown by Yeddyurappa, JSW Steel advised South West Mining Company and the three other accused companies to donate Rs 20 crore to Prerana Trust, and South West Mining purchased the Rachenahalli plot to cover up the bribe. 

The Special Public Prosecutor relied on four Supreme Court rulings to argue that it is not necessary that all the conspirators must know each and every detail of the conspiracy as long as they are co-participants in the main goal of the conspiracy. He also argued that conspiracy can also be proved by circumstantial evidence. 

The counsel for the accused relied on Supreme Court rulings that the court must inquire whether the persons are independently pursuing the same end or whether they do it together. It must be clearly established that two parties came together to commit the illegal act. Agreement cannot be inferred by a group of irrelevant facts artfully arranged so as to give an appearance of coherence. The rulings cited also held that it was not enough that two or more people pursued the same unlawful object at the same time or in the same place, but not necessary that each conspirator be in communication with others. 

Reasoning

The judge said that based on the above principles in the Supreme Court judgements, the prosecution had “failed to prove that there was a meeting of mind” between accused Yeddyurappa, his family members and Prerana Trust and the rest of the accused; and that South West Mining Company and the other three companies knew the conspiracy. Thus, South West Mining Company knew nothing about the fixation of premium on iron ore fines and the ban on export of ore. 

The judge held that South West Mining Company had purchased the land in Rachenahalli for potential for land development, and that it and the other four companies donated Rs 20 crore to Prerana Trust as part of CSR.

The judge said that the prosecution failed to prove that any of the officials of Nowal (JSW Director and CEO) was accused of participating in the agreement of purchase of land, and advised to obtain an inflated valuation of report for Rachenahalli plot. JSW vice president Vikas Sharma was accused of making a representation to Yeddyurappa to interfere in the matter to advise MML to adhere to the MoU with JSWSL, and that Sharma advised the group of companies of no 8 to donate to Prerana. 

The judge held that the decisions taken by Yeddyurappa with regard to the denotification of land, fixation of premium iron ore at 50%, and imposing ban on iron ore “are found to be collective decision taken by the Govt. on valid reasons”.

Dharmagoudar said in the judgement, that “the prosecution has failed to prove” either the first part of the alleged conspiracy between accused or the second part, and called it “only suspicion of the prosecution”. 

Based on the evidence on record, the judge said that the Rachenahalli plot was denotified by SM Krishna in 2004. 

The judge also said that there was “absolutely no iota of evidence on record” to prove that Prerana Trust and 13 induced Yeddyurappa and his family to exercise their personal influence over Yeddyurappa to do an official favour to JSW Steel.

The prosecution failed to prove that MML suffered loss. Instead, the judge noted that there was “simple evidence on record” to show that after fixing the premium at 60%, MML Ltd had been making profit compared to previous years. 

As the prosecution had failed to show that the Yeddyurappa had not abused his official position in fixing premium at 50% instead of 60%, the question of cheating the state government to cause “wrongful loss” and to “make a wrongful gain to his kins does not arise at all”, the judge said. 

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