In a jolt to External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and a major embarrassment to the Congress, the Karnataka High Court Friday allowed probe into charges that he had illegally de-reserved large forest areas for mining when he was chief minister during 1999-2004.
Also facing embarrassment is former prime minister and Janata Dal-Secular president H.D. Deve Gowda as the court gave the nod to a probe into the role of his son and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy in granting a mining licence to a company.
Another former Congress chief minister N. Dharam Singh, who has also been accused of abetting illegal mining, will also be investigated.
Justice N. Ananda Friday partly rejected separate petitions of Krishna and Kumaraswamy challenging the police registering an FIR (First Information Report) to launch the probe into charges against them.
Dharam Singh, who had also challenged in the high court the registration of FIR against him, withdrew his petition early this week.
Krishna had Dec 9 moved the high court seeking quashing of the case registered by the police Dec 8 on order of the Lokayukta (ombudsman) court judge N.K. Sudhindra Rao.
Kumaraswamy had followed suit.
Rao had ordered the probe Dec 3 against the three former chief ministers and 11 serving and retired senior officials on a complaint by a Bangalore businessman T.J. Abraham.
Abraham alleged that during his tenure as chief minister, Krishna “illegally amassed wealth in the name of his family members, including his children and in-laws, and also in the names of his erstwhile close cabinet colleagues in return for de-reserving forest land for private companies”.
Krishna is accused of de-reserving thousands of acres of forest lands in Bellary and other places and allowing 10 private companies to mine in the area, despite opposition from the then state forests minister and secretary of the forests department.
Bellary is an iron-ore rich district, 300 km north of Bangalore.
Justice Ananda said Friday that police can continue the probe into charges of de-reservation of large forest area by Krishna.
He, however, found no substance in the complaint that some of Krishna’s decisions had caused a loss to Mysore Minerals Ltd, a Karnataka government undertaking.
In the case of Kumaraswamy, the judge allowed probe into charges that he had illegally granted mining licence to Sai Venkateshwara Minerals in Bellary. Kumaraswamy was chief minister of the JDS-Bharatiya Janata party coalition government during 2006-07.
The complaint against Kumaraswamy’s predecessor, Dharam Singh, chief minister of Congress-JDS coalition government during 2004-2006, is of illegally issuing permits to transport iron ore.
With Justice Ananda allowing probe into actions of Krishna, Kumaraswamy and Dharam Singh, four former chief ministers of Karnataka, representing all three major parties in the state — Congress, BJP and JDS — are under police scanner.
B.S. Yeddyurappa of BJP is being probed in eight cases of corruption and illegal land deals and in two of them he was in Bangalore jail for 21 days in October-November last year.
Yeddyurappa, BJP’s first chief minister in south India, quit July 31 last year after the then Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde recommended his trial for corruption in illegal mining scam.
The illegal iron ore mining scam has also resulted in Karnataka BJP’s financial powerhouse – Gali Janardhana Reddy of the Bellary Reddy brothers trio – being jailed since Sep 5 in Hyderabad.
Reddy, who was a minister in the Yeddyurappa cabinet, is accused of large-scale illegal mining both in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as Bellary is on the border of the two states. He is in Hyderabad jail in connection with an illegal mining case in Andhra Pradesh.