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War of words grows louder

The Centre and the Congress on Saturday backed Karnataka governor HR Bhardwaj’s move to grant sanction to prosecute chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, saying the decision was in accordance with the law.

delhi Updated: Jan 23, 2011 00:45 IST
HT Correspondent

The Centre and the Congress on Saturday backed Karnataka governor HR Bhardwaj’s move to grant sanction to prosecute chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, saying the decision was in accordance with the law.

“If anyone is aggrieved, they have the option to take legal remedies,” was their suggestion to Yeddyurrapa and the BJP. Home minister P Chidambaram said it was not the first time a governor has given his sanction to prosecute a CM or a minister. “The law in this respect is clear and well-settled,” he said in a statement.

Citing the 2004 case of MP Special Police Establishment versus State of Madhya Pradesh (vol. 8 SCC page 788), Chidambaram said then governor of Madhya Pradesh, Bhai Mahavir overruled the Cabinet’s advice and granted sanction to prosecute two ministers. A five-Judge bench of the SC later upheld the governor’s order.

He also drew the BJP’s attention to Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde’s statement in which he observed the governor had the jurisdiction to grant sanction for prosecution.

Echoing his views, law minister Veerappa Moily said the BJP by opposing the decision was defending corruption.

“Everyone is equal before law. Governor has full authority to sanction prosecution of a chief minister who does not enjoy immunity. Everything is on record about corruption and nepotism (of Yeddyurappa) and even BJP had asked him to quit,” he said in Mumbai.

The Congress said there was “absolutely no need” for the BJP to indulge in political blame-game. “The power which the Constitution entrusts to the governor, has been exercised and the remedy, if any, is court redressal and not political allegation or deliberate breakdown in law and order, by the BJP, for the BJP in a BJP ruled state,” spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

Instances of Governors taking on CMs

The Supreme Court has settled that the law of the land is that the governor can sanction prosecution of chief ministers and ministers as per his discretion.

In 1982, the Maharashtra governor gave sanction to prosecute AR Antulay for acts he had committed as chief minister. He had resigned as CM by the time the sanction came, but the governor had acted on his own in the absence of any advice from the council of ministers.

In September 1998, Madhya Pradesh governor Bhai Mahavir — a BJP man — sanctioned the prosecution of two Congress ministers who were indicted by the state Lok Ayukta. The allegation was that they illegally released seven acres of land, lawfully acquired by the Indore Development Authority, to its previous owners. The case went to Supreme Court, which in 2004 held that the governor had the right to do so. Justice Santosh Hegde — current Karnataka Lok Ayukta — was on that SC bench which held that a governor can act on his own, in “those rare occasions where… the decision of Council of Ministers is shown to be irrational and based on non-consideration of relevant factor.”

In June 1997, Bihar governor AR Kidwai sanctioned prosecution of CM Lalu Prasad and 55 others in cases related to the fodder scam. Besides Lalu, ministers Bhola Ram Toofani and Vidya Sagar Nishad, union minister CP Verma and former CM Jagannath Mishra were prosecuted. In this instance, the CBI had already investigated the case and chargesheet was ready.