BANGALORE: Karnataka High Court today reserved orders on a petition by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna seeking quashing of the private complaint accusing him of facilitating illegal mining during his tenure as state Chief Minister between 1999 to 2004.
Justice N Ananada also extended the stay granted by the high court on all proceedings of the Lokayukta court including the FIR filed by Lokayukta police against Krishna last month till the pronouncement of final orders.
On December 15, the high court had granted four weeks stay on the proceedings pending before the Lokayukta court.
The Lokayukta police had on December 8 filed an FIR against Krishna and two other former Chief Ministers N Dharam Singh and H D Kumaraswamy and 11 officials on a directive by the Lokayukta Court given on a private complaint filed by T J Abraham.
Earlier resuming arguments, Abraham submitted that though earlier it was decided by the state government that dereservation of forest land to encourage mining by private sector would be done in non-fragile areas, it was done in fragile mineral bearing regions despite opposition from the forest department.
"Important files on dereservation went missing and in December 2002, the decision (to dereserve) was intentionally taken with the knowledge of the head of the state (who was S M Krishna that time)", he alleged.
At this the Judge observed "show the culpability of the Chief Minister in dereservation. He cannot be held responsible for all the illegalities committed".
Pointing to the applications for mining leases that increased from double digits in 1997 to 2,773 in 2001, Abraham alleged that in April 2004, several mining companies which were into "illegal mining" including South West Mining, Deccan Mining Company, V S Lad & Sons, Jentakal Mining Company and Orient Goa were granted mining leases.
He further said that during this period Krishna's son-in-law amassed a huge amount of wealth starting 14 new companies including Cafe Coffee Day, a division of Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Company Limited (ABCTCL), which he owns, and 'Way 2 Wealth'.
Responding to the contentions of Abraham, senior counsel for Krishna, Uday Lalit, reiterated his submission that Krishna's name did not figure anywhere in the Lokayukta report, based on which the complaint had been filed.
Also the dereservation was a "collective decision by the cabinet in pursuance with the National Mineral Policy 1993 and not an individual decision".
He further submitted that the extent of land that was reserved in Karnataka was 44,630 sq km. In 1997, the state was asked by the Centre to reduce the extent to 7,000 sq km and dereserved the rest but the state government keeping in mind the mineral wealth, dereserved only 11,670 sq km.
Reiterating the submission he made yesterday, Lalit stated that the cabinet was not properly informed by the forest department about the land details and the forest department "did not obtain any report from the field officer as to the land with vegetation cover".
Lalit also said the mining leases mentioned by Abraham were granted from 2006 onwards after "Krishna demitted office and he (Krishna) had nothing to do with it".
When Lalit submitted that Lokayukta under section 14 of the Lokayukta Act had the power to prosecute, Justice Ananda intervened saying Lokayukta had no suo moto powers and it could prosecute only public servants with a monthly income of Rs 25,000 and excluded the "creamy layers".
The Judge, who sought the assistance of the Lokayukta counsel on the matter, admonished him when the latter was not able to do so.