Karnataka HC to Lokayukta: Complete illegal mining probe in 1 year | Bengaluru News – Times of India


BENGALURU: Holding that the Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal has erred in law and in quashing the chargesheet filed against errant officials in the illegal mining and transportation of iron ore scam, the high court requested the Lokayukta to conclude the departmental inquiry within a year.
“The present case reflects a very sorry state of affairs. A matter which was referred to by the state government for investigation under section 7(2-A) of the Lokayukta Act in 2007 has not attained finality on account of various litigations,” a division bench headed by Justice Satish Chandra Sharma noted, while setting aside orders passed by the tribunal in 2017 and 2018.
It was the Lokayukta which had challenged the tribunal’s order, pointing out that to facilitate illegal mining and transportation of iron ore in Ballari and other taluks, fake permits were issued and 617 officials involved in the scam. This includes around Rs 2.5 crore bribe reflected as “departmental expenses” in the records seized from Karapudi Mahesh, a key accused. The bench, which perused the records, said the then Lokayukta (Justice N Santhosh Hegde) had submitted a detailed report and based on that, the chargesheet was filed on April 8, 2015.
“We are in 2021. Again, on account of an application filed by respondent (officials) before the tribunal, the matter has been delayed as the chargesheet itself was quashed and the fact remains that the government has not been able to take action against officials,” the bench noted. It said the government was disinterested in challenging the tribunal’s order. “…
The reason for not challenging the tribunal order appears to be under pressure of officers involved in the case. Therefore, the Lokayukta, being a statutory body constituted to curb the menace, has an institutional interest as well as the locus,” the bench added. The tribunal had quashed both the government order entrusting the probe to the Lokayukta under KCS Rules and the chargesheet filed by the Lokayukta, after allowing petitions lodged by TV Prakash, Manjunath Ballari and Ramakanth Y Hullar (a cop).
The main reason given by the tribunal was that principles of natural justice were not followed and continuation of disciplinary proceedings would be a futile exercise. However, the bench noted that the departmental inquiry itself is a complete trial wherein the employee gets full opportunity to defend himself and the tribunal could not have quashed the chargesheet merely on the ground that an opportunity of hearing was not provided in terms of section 9 of the Lokayukta Act.

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