A Karnataka minister on Sunday quit following a newspaper report accusing him of sexually assaulting his friend's wife in his home district of Shimoga. The victim filed a criminal case later in the evening, police said.
The case was filed against former food and civil supplies minister Haratalu Halappa by Chandravathy, 33, wife of Venkatesh Murthy of Shimoga, about 270 km from Bangalore.
"We have received a complaint from Chandravathy charging Halappa of sexually assaulting her. We have registered a non-cognisable (NC) case against the accused on the basis of the complaint," Assistant Sub Inspector T. Shivarudraiah told IANS.
Prior to lodging the complaint, the couple met state Director General of Police (DGP) Ajay Kumar Singh with their lawyer to file the case against Halappa, who resigned earlier in the day after a local Kannada daily published a news story without naming the accused that he had sexually assaulted the victim.
Murthy, a friend of Halappa and a financier, told reporters outside the DGP office that he did not file the complaint at Shimoga, as he was not sure whether the local police would have entertained it had the incident not been reported in the media and also because Halappa and Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa hail from the same town.
"We do not trust the local police (in Shimoga). That's why we came all the way to Bangalore to lodge the complaint with the DGP," Murthy, 42, told reporters.
Governor H.R. Bhardwaj accepted Halappa's resignation later in the day after the chief minister passed it on.
Though Halappa, who represents Shorab assembly segment in Shimoga district, denied the assault charge, terming it as a political conspiracy plotted by his detractors within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the dramatic release of video clips and tapped conversations between Murthy and Halappa to news channels had embarrassed the state government.
According to the complaint, the incident occurred on the night of November 26-27, 2009, when Halappa went to Murthy's house for dinner and stayed back for the night.
"In the middle of the night, Halappa, who was sleeping on the first floor, came down and told me that he was suffering from chest pain and asked me to rush to the government guest house where he had kept his medicine in the baggage. When I returned after a while, I was shocked to see Halappa semi-nude and my wife squatted on the bed wailing," Murthy said in the complaint.
When Chandravathy told her husband that Halappa attempted to outrage her modesty, Murthy thrashed the then minister.
Halappa shot to fame as he defeated former state chief minister S. Bangarappa's sons Madhu Bangarappa and Kumar Bangarappa in the May 2008 assembly polls from Shorab. While Kumar Bangarappa contested on the Congress ticket, Madhu fought as a Samajwadi Party candidate, as senior Bangarappa was then in that party.
Incidentally, Halappa is the brother in-law of Bangarappa.
After Halappa accused Bangarappa of masterminding the incident, the latter told reporters that his brother in-law's behaviour with women was questionable from the beginning.
"When he worked with me, I had received several complaints about his behaviuor with women. But I never though he would stoop to such a level. Why should I conspire against him? He is a political minnow," Bangarappa maintained.