BENGALURU: Allowing writ petitions filed by the Lokayukta, the Karnataka High Court set aside orders passed by the Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal to quash the disciplinary inquiry entrusted by the State Government to the Lokayukta, as well as the chargesheet against government officials, in connection with illegal mining.
“In the present case, there is an error apparent on the face of the record committed by the tribunal, and this court, by invoking inherent power, can certainly correct it,” said a division bench of Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy.
The Lokayukta has filed three petitions challenging the orders passed by the tribunal, on the applications filed by Prakash TV, Assistant Commissioner, Upper Tunga Project; Manjunath R Ballari, Under Secretary to Government; and Ramakanth Y Hullar, Circle Inspector of Police. Advocate Venkatesh S Arbatti, the counsel of Lokayukta, has vehemently argued that the tribunal’s action amounts to giving a premium to the alleged 617 dishonest officers, with the mining scam in the state being one of the biggest scams in the country. Such people cannot be permitted to go scot-free, and such a large scam of iron ore, wherein large amounts were paid as bribe, cannot be washed out by a single stroke of pen, he argued.
Accordingly, the court noted that this case reflects a very sorry state of affairs. A matter which was referred by the government for investigation in 2007 has not attained finality on account of various litigations. The then Lokayukta had submitted a very detailed report, based upon which, the chargesheet has also been issued on April 8, 2015.
“We are in 2021. Again, on account of an application before the tribunal, the matter has been delayed, as the chargesheet itself was quashed by it. The fact remains that the State Government has been unable to take any action against as many as 617 officials, who were allegedly involved in corruption, causing loss to the government to the tune of crores and crores of rupees,” the court said. In view of this, the court requested the Lokayukta to conclude the departmental enquiry, as expeditiously as possible, preferable within a period of one year.