The Karnataka High Court quashed the proceedings against former BJP MLA K Madal Virupakshappa and former chairman of Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Ltd (KSDL) under the Prevention of Corruption Act on Wednesday, December 20. The court said that there was no offence of demand or acceptance of a bribe against Virupakshappa, who was the MLA from Channagiri constituency at the time the case was registered. However, his son Prashanth will have to face a “full-blown trial”, the court said.
The court said that there was not even prima facie evidence of either demand or acceptance of a bribe to justify the continuation of the case against him. It said, “If there is not even a whisper of any demand or acceptance of bribe by the petitioner, it is un-understandable as to how the proceedings can be permitted to be continued against him. The document of tender that has become the subject matter of complaint is also placed before the Court. Nowhere the petitioner even participated in the proceedings. Therefore, on all these counts, permitting further proceedings against the petitioner would become an abuse of the process of law and result in miscarriage of justice.”
The court asserted, "Prima facie, it is the son who has to answer the allegations in a full-blown trial." The court rejected the Lokayukta’s argument that the father is involved in the acts of the son, and therefore, proceedings should be allowed to continue due to moral obligations. The court stated that moral obligation cannot be a basis for allowing proceedings, emphasising the need for at least prima facie material against the petitioner in criminal prosecution.
The complaint by Lokayukta said that Virupakshappa’s son Prashanth, in his role as the Financial Adviser and Chief Accounts Officer at BWSSB, demanded and accepted a bribe for clearing bills or directing tenders in a specific manner at KSDL. Lokayukta arrested Prashanth while accepting a bribe of Rs 40 lakh on March 2, 2023. Naming Madal Virupakshappa as accused number 1, the Lokayukta contended that the son had used his influence to demand and accept money on behalf of his father.
Challenging the proceedings, Virupakshappa contended that he had been dragged into the criminal case simply because of his position as the Chairman of KSDL and said that his son may have taken the money. However, the Lokayukta maintained that, despite Virupakshappa not being directly implicated, his role as the chairman of KSDL warranted scrutiny. The court observed that even though an amount of Rs 6.1 crore in cash was discovered during the search at Prashanth's residence, no incriminating material was found against Virupakshappa.