The first move that Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa made after the land scam surfaced has been challenged even after he managed to come out of the fix almost unscathed.
Immediately after allegations were made that the chief minister had allotted government land to his kin at throwaway prices, Yeddyurappa set up a judicial commission under retired high court judge B Padmaraja to probe the charges.
But since the Lok Ayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde, had already been approached by the opposition JD(S) and began his probe, he said on Friday that the formation of the commission was legally flawed as the case was already with the Lok Ayukta.
Justice Hegde wrote to the state chief secretary: “I am investigating a few cases of land scams filed against the chief minister. At this juncture, a judicial probe has been announced without my consent, violating the Karnataka Lok Ayukta Act of 1984.”
He said although the act provided that the government could order a probe only after taking the Lok Ayukta’s consent, “they did not have any courtesy to consult me”.
The Lok Ayukta is an ombudsman organisation in states to help people bring corruption to the fore, mainly among politicians and bureaucrats. Although it can conduct raids, it does not have powers to punish anyone.
Higher education minister VS Acharya argued that the commission had been formed under the Central Commission of Inquiry Act that supersedes state legislations. But Justice Hegde said he would continue the probe.
The opposition is also questioning the judge heading the inquiry, alleging that Justice Padmaraja had received a plot from the Karnataka State Judicial Department Employees House Building Cooperative Society, against which a case was being heard in the court.
Three former high court judges filed a case against the society, alleging illegalities in its membership, site allotment to kin of office-bearers and selling sites meant for parking and other common amenities.