High Court raps Karnataka Governor, Lokayukta
Karnataka High Court’s order quashing Governor Hansraj Bhardwaj’s sanction to prosecute the then Chief Minister BS Yaddyurappa for his alleged involvement in illegal mining is a severe indictment of the controversial head of the state. The court’s finding that the Chief Minister was condemned unheard and that the grant of sanction to prosecute Yeddyurappa was a “flagrant violation” of the principles of justice and fairness in administrative actions and statutory provisions is a telling comment on the conduct of the Governor and the Lokayukta. It is indeed a virtual validation of the BJP charge that the Governor’s action was mala fide and that he acted more as a Congress party agent than as a Constitutional authority.
There were serious allegations that he had misused the Raj Bhavan for holding strategy sessions with certain State Congress leaders to destablise the duly elected Government. It is opposition’s right to find fault with the Government of the day and expose its misdeeds, if any. Does the Governor think he is part and parcel of the Opposition? Governor Bhardwaj has brought disgrace to the high office he holds. Congress party’s track record being what it is it would be futile to expect the Union Government to recall the Governor. The acute embarrassment caused to Bhardwaj is unlikely to provoke him to put in his papers. The only viable option available to the BJP is to take the issue to the people to educate them in Karnataka and outside on the unsavoury role played by the Governor.
Although Justice (retired) Santosh Hegde, the former Lokayukta too has been indicted by the High Court, his was a different ball game. The retired judge is perceived to be a fiercely honest man committed to eradication of corruption in public life. He is a social activist and is a member of Anna Hazare team. Given his background and credentials he was expected to exercise his powers with more circumspection. Unfortunately, he acted as a zealous social activist and, in the process, suffered loss of face. The High Court invalidated part of the Lokayukta’s report saying it suffered from serious procedural infirmities and ruled that the Lokayukta had erred in recommending the initiation of criminal proceedings against Yeddyurappa without calling for his explanation as required under the law. Further, the paragraph in the report pertaining to the former Chief Minister’s alleged involvement in illegal mining was outside the scope of the reference made to the Lokayukta by the State Government. That he should have been found amiss is a dark spot in Justice Hegde’s otherwise unblemished record. Since, he has already retired from the quasi-judicial body it would be better to leave him alone to let him lick his wounds.
BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa and his party are rightly relieved by the relief he got from the High Court. The man who played a big role in BJP capturing power in the first South Indian state is a much maligned leader. The Congress and the JD (S) couldn’t stomach saffron party’s march to victory in Karnataka and resorted to all sorts of tricks to destablise the Government. Some of the Ministers in the BJP Government did the rest by their alleged role in illegal mining which is a big issue in the State. The BJP High Command failed to deftly handle the issue and the former CM made certain errors of judgements. The resultant mess found Yeddyurappa in trouble. Once the Lokayukta wrongly recommended his prosecution and the Governor acted in unseemly haste to give permission to prosecute him, Yeddyurappa was forced to quit.
The High Court verdict has cleared him of the charge of his involvement in the illegal mining saying he was neither the Chief Minister nor the Minister of Mines when certain companies (with which his relatives are said to be involved) received licences. The former Chief Minister stands vindicated. But it is no time to rejoice. Not yet. In fact, it is time to introspect and wait patiently. There are some minor cases that are yet to be disposed of. Also awaited is the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowerment Committee’s report on whether a CBI enquiry into the mining case was called for. And those who had been indicted by the High Court have already threatened to approach the Supreme Court against the High Court order. It will, therefore, be prudent to wait before the party takes any decision about the future of Yeddyurappa.
At one point of time, some over-zealous supporters of the former Chief Minister made a public hue and cry that he should be immediately reinstated as Chief Minister. Little did they realise that Chief Minister’s office is not a bureaucratic job to which one is automatically reinstated when one is cleared of allegations. It is a highly sensitive political office and too frequent changes send wrong signals and create instability. Unfortunately, Yeddyurappa too made some remarks in his interaction with mediapersons to the effect that since he had been given a clean chit by the High Court, it was for the High Command to honour the promises it made. There was a slight hind that it was better done without delay else… Fortunately, good sense prevailed and soon the former Chief Minister told his supporters that the matter should be left to the BJP leadership in Delhi. This is how a leader of Yeddyurappa’s standing should respond to an evolving situation. He needs to remember how BJP stalwart LK Advani responded when he was falsely and maliciously involved in the infamous Jain Hawala case in 1990s. Within hours of Advani being charge-sheeted in the case, he not only resigned his seat in the Lok Sabha but also made a public statement that he wouldn’t enter parliament before he was cleared of all charges by the courts. That was why he had to keep out of the first BJP Government in 1996. He waited patiently, continued to work for the party. Eventually the courts dismissed the case against him vindicating his innocence. He won the next election hands down and later rose to be the Deputy Prime Minister of India. Similarly charge-sheeted Delhi Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana took a different and unfortunate course. Immediately after the case against him failed in the court, he demanded his immediate reinstatement as Chief Minister – an office he was forced to quit when he too was charge-sheeted in the Jain Hawala case. That couldn’t be. And he could never become Delhi Chief Minister after his political bluff.