Lokayukta Court on Thursday ordered a probe against three former Karnataka chief ministers --former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, external affairs minister SM Krishna and BS Yeddyurappa, on a complaint alleging irregularities in the Bangalore-Mysore expressway project.
Judge NK Sudhindra Rao directed Additional DGP (Lokayukta) HN Sathyanarayana Rao to conduct the probe against the three and 27 others in connection with the alleged corruption and illegalities in the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project which was awarded to Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) and its sister companies.
The complaint was filed by social activist and entrepreneur TJ Abraham.
Others against whom the probe was ordered included NICE Managing Director Ashok Kheny, former minister RV Deshpande, Congress leader DK Shivakumar, public works minister CM Udasi, ICICI Bank Private Limited, industrialist Baba Kalyani, William Weld, former Governor of Massachusetts USA and Richard Hangan, another US national, who was part of the consortium with which the state had signed an MoU for the project.
Abraham had named 105 people in his complaint filed against NICE and its sister concerns also alleging illegal grabbing of farmers' lands for the project.
However, the judge ordered probe only against the 30, excluding the rest. Another former chief minister N Dharam Singh is among those excluded from the probe.
The court, in its nearly 500-page order, further directed that a wing be constituted comprising not less than four Deputy Superintendents of Police (DySP) for investigating the matter against the 30.
The court did not allow the first application filed by Abraham seeking a separate order on Chapter 1, of the total eight chapters into which over the 150 page complaint was divided into. Chapter 1 contained the crux of the complaint.
On his other application, wherein Abraham had prayed the court to attach the entire extent of 6,999 acres representing alleged fradulent execution of the toll road project, the court directed that only the land pertaining to Ajmera Builders be attached.
In another application Abraham had prayed the court to exercise the power conferred under section 4 of the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance to direct the SP Lokayukta to attach the total toll "illegally" collected by NICE, NECEL (sister compnay of NICE) or through its agents at any time upon the peripheral road, more particularly identified in the Framework Agreement dated April 3, 1997 as modified from time to time.
On this, the court ordered "an ad interim attachment against amount equivalent to the toll collection for the preceding two years in all toll booths set up by NICE.
It said the investigative agency shall seek the assistance of government agencies including the jurisdictional police to assess and calculate the number of vehicles plying on the toll road to ascertain proper quantification of toll collected" and held that further quantification from today, which would be "illegal", would eventually revert back to the government.
The court further directed issue of show cause notice to NICE, NECEL and "other interested parties" which had been collecting the toll.
The case filed by Abraham dates back to 1995 when under the chief ministership of Deve Gowda an MoU was entered into between the state government and four-member consortium comprising Ashok Kheny, William Weld and Richard Hangan (both from US) and Baba Kalyani for the construction of a connecting road of international standards between Bangalore and Mysore. Subsequently a framework agreement signed.
As per this agreement, the consortium was ready to invest Rs 522 crore for the project worth about Rs 1,500 crore while the remaining amount was to be raised through loans.
However, Abraham claimed the consortium at that point of time was not able to pay the initial deposit of Rs 10 crore to state-owned KIADB, for the proposed acquisition of land for the project.
Of the total 20,193 acres earmarked for the project, 5,972 acres was illegally acquired, he had alleged.
Abraham in his complaint had further submitted essential components of the "Mysore-Bangalore Express Road" project was the construction of four lane expressway between Bangalore-Mysore (110 kms) with a provision of extending it to six lane in future requirement.
Also, cement concrete surface and Expressway Project should be designed to have a lifespan of 60 years and should conform to the best international standards.
And, the lease period was of 30 years from the date of completion from the date of completion of Expressway including link road and peripheral roads and after which, the expressway facility for which toll is being collected will revert back in its entirely to the government of Karnataka.
Abraham charged that not even a single kilometre of the stretch of road connecting between Bangalore and Mysore measuring 111 kms has been built for public utility till date-a full 17 years after the government agreed to entrust the BMIC project to the consortium.
He further charged that NICE has been collecting toll illegally upon its asphalt road from December 12, 2008 which include Rs 35.47 crore for the year 2009-10 and Rs. 5.64 crore for the year 2008-09, believed to be with NECEL (its sister concern) as reflected in their balance sheet of March 31, 2010.
Abraham pointed out that a specific request to government of Karnataka on April 21, 2012 in this regard "has not seen any response whatsoever" and a subsequent reminder had also not yielded any corrective action by the government.
Those who have been excluded from investigation include Chief Secretary S V Ranganath, former Advocate General Ashok Haranahally and sitting high court judge HS Kempanna.