On Tuesday, the Karnataka High Court refused to quash a criminal complaint registered against Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Yeddyurappa was accused of de-notifying parcels of land and allotting it to entrepreneurs, during his tenure as the Deputy Chief Minister of the state, between February 2006 to October 2007.
The bench headed by Justice Michael Cunha refused to quash the FIR registered by the Karnataka Lokayukta Police for the offense under sections 13(1)(d) read with 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, based on a private complaint filed by Vasudeva Reddy, in 2013, in the Lokayukta Court. The complaint was over a decision Yeddyurappa took when he was the Deputy Chief Minister in 2006 to allegedly release a parcel of government acquired land to private persons.
Yeddyurappa approached the High Court with the plea that the case against one of the other accused persons – former industries minister R V Deshpande of the Congress party had been quashed by the court on 9 October 2015. The High Court had initially stayed the proceedings against Yeddyurappa in April 2019, however, the court stated that it cannot quash the FIR registered against Yeddyurappa. It also refused to accept the submission by Yeddyurappa’s advocates that he is accused in the very same FIR as Deshpande and that the case should be quashed since an investigation against him based on the very same FIR would be illegal.
Meanwhile, after Yeddyurappa had petitioned the high court in 2019 to quash the FIR as the probe had not progressed at all over five years, the bench pulled up the police for delay in the investigation. It stated that “The Lokayukta investigation clearly shows that the delay was intentional and deliberate. Respondent No.1, being an independent and impartial body entrusted with the duty to investigate 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.”
“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 offenses,” added the bench.
Further, while relying on the judgment of H.D.Kumaraswamy vs. the State Of Karnataka, the HC rejected the contention raised by the petitioner that the requirement of sanction under section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, was not followed.
“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,” asserted the bench.