BANGALORE: A judicial commission will investigate the denotification of land in Arkavathy Layout, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced on Monday.
The Opposition BJP was not satisfied and continued its demand for a CBI investigation.
Denotification refers to the return of government-acquired land to private parties. The BJP is accusing the Siddaramaiah government of denotifying land allotted for Arkavathy Layout, in Bangalore, to mop up election funds.
The judicial commission announced by Siddaramaiah will be headed by a retired High Court judge and will cover the period from 2003, when the land was notified, to 2014, when the government submitted a report to the High Court.
Siddaramaiah told reporters the government would announce the terms of reference and time-frame for completion of the report later.
“The government was ready for a probe by a House panel, the CID and or a judicial commission. I have announced a probe by a judicial commission,” he said. He reiterated he had not “dropped, deleted or denotified” orders, as alleged by Jagadish Shettar.
Shettar, Leader of the Opposition, has alleged the Congress government denotified 983.3 acres to help its friends in the real estate sector ahead of the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year.
Shettar’s Fault: CM
Turning the tables against the Opposition leader, Siddaramaiah alleged the lands had actually been denotified by the erstwhile BJP government headed by Shettar.
“Their government dropped 442 acres on February 13, 2013. The same evening, they dropped 119 acres more. All this has happened with the full knowledge of Shettar. He did it keeping the Assembly elections in mind,” Siddaramaiah alleged.
He reiterated what his government had done was in accordance with court orders. “The government has only re-modified the plan according to the decision of the previous government by dropping 541 acres,” he claimed.
Asked why he was apprehensive about a CBI probe, Siddaramaiah said: “All these years the BJP was calling the CBI the Congress Bureau of Investigation. Now that their government is at the Centre, they want a CBI probe.”
He said he would have agreed to one had the BJP agreed to even a single CBI investigation during their rule in Karnataka. “A CBI probe will unnecessarily delay the distribution of 11,000 sites,” Siddaramaiah said.
Action in Assembly
As the House resumed on Monday, Shettar trooped into the well of the Assembly, demanding a CBI inquiry.
Siddaramaiah, in his reply later declared to have been read, said he was willing to order a probe by a House, CID or by judicial commission. BJP members, however, didn’t budge. They shouted: “down, down wholesale de-notification government” and “down, down government that looted the BDA”.
Shettar demanded Siddaramaiah’s resignation. “You have no moral right to continue in power,” he said, waving a letter signed by Siddaramaiah directing officials to get permission from the Election Commission to modify the Arkavathy plan, as directed by the High Court. The Election Commission’s approval was necessary as the election code of conduct was already in force. The letter was signed on March 31, 2014.
Shettar alleged Siddaramaiah had signed the files and denotified land in the name of a re-modified Arkavathy Layout plan.
He claimed the file had also come to him when he was chief minister. “I didn’t sign it, sensing that the High Court orders might not have been completely adhered to,” he remarked.
Asked why he hadn’t ordered an investigation, the former chief minister said the Assembly polls were then around the corner, leaving him with no time.
“I kept the file in abeyance. Siddaramaiah signed it just before the Lok Sabha elections,” he said, and alleged that the CM was directly involved in the denotification scam.
All these days, he was blaming bureaucrats. “Siddaramaiah’s signature on the file clearly indicates his role in the scam,” Shettar alleged.
When the CM stood up to reply, the Opposition members started shouting and drowned out his voice.
As chaos prevailed, Siddaramaiah requested Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa to consider his reply as read. The Speaker agreed.