- Apprentice Lawyer
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday refused to quash a criminal complaint registered against Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
It is alleged that Yediyurappa had de-notified parcels of land and allotted it to entrepreneurs, during his tenure as the Deputy Chief Minister of the State, between February 2006 and October 2007.
Justice John Michael Cunha refused to quash the First Information Report (FIR) dated December 21, 2005 registered by the Karnataka Lokayukta Police for the offences punishable under Section 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, on the basis of a private complaint filed by one Vasudeva Reddy.
Senior Advocate CV Nagesh, appearing for Yediyurappa, had contended that in respect of the very same FIR, accused No 1, Raghunath Vishwanath Deshpande had preferred a writ petition before the Court, which had quashed the FIR. Therefore, in view of that order, an investigation against the petitioner based on the very same FIR is illegal and amounts to abuse of process of court, he argued.
The Court, however, rejected this contention, stating,
"From the reading of the complaint, I find that distinct and separate allegations are made against the petitioner. This allegation prima facie discloses a cognizance offence insofar as the petitioner is concerned which needs to be investigated."
Further, Nagesh had argued that the order of reference is bad for non-production of sanction under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
On this point, the Single Bench stated that since Yediyurappa had ceased to hold the office of Deputy Chief Minister, which he was holding as on the date of commission of the alleged offence, there is no requirement for obtaining prior sanction. The order states,
"Petitioner having ceased to hold the office of Deputy Chief Minister which he was holding as on the date of commission of the alleged offence, there is no requirement of obtaining prior sanction. This view is resoundingly reiterated in Abhay Singh Chautala vs. Central Bureau of Investigation (2011) 7 SCC 141. In the light of this settled legal position, the argument of the learned Senior Counsel for petitioner that the order of reference made by learned Special Judge is bad for non-production of sanction under section 19 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is rejected."
The Court also placed reliance on the judgment passed in the case of HD Kumaraswamy vs State of Karnataka, stating,
"Insofar as the requirement of sanction under section 197 Cr.P.C., is concerned, the section bars cognizance and not the investigation. This plea, therefore, is liable to be rejected outright as premature."
Before parting with the judgment, the Bench pulled up the Lokayukta Police for delay in investigation against Yeddyurappa.
"The circumstances clearly indicate that the delay is intentional and deliberate", observed the High Court.
However, it refrained from saying that the Police had succumbed to the "pressure of the petitioner, who has been holding the position of the Chief Minister of the State of Karnataka".
"Respondent No.1, being an independent and impartial body entrusted with the duty to investigate into the misconduct of the public servants objectively cannot give rise to an impression in the mind of the general public that it is playing into the hands of the political bigwigs."
The Court remarked that as the investigation is still in progress, it does not intend to pass any direction mandating any action against the Lokayukta Police, who is entrusted with the investigation in the matter. However, it reprimanded the Police for its laxity in conducting the investigation.
"In the circumstances of the case, having regard to the fact that the investigation is still in progress, I refrain from directing any action against the Lokayukta Police entrusted with the investigation, lest it would prejudice the investigation. However, the laxity in conducting the investigation in the instant case is deprecated and the Lokayukta Court is directed to keep watch over the investigation ordered by the Criminal Courts in respect of the misconduct of public servants and MPs and MLAs involved in the commission of criminal offences."