Karnataka ‘40% commission’ row: Contractors arrested in minister’s defamation case

Dec 25, 2022 06:42 PM IST

The five arrested contractors include D Kempanna, president of the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association, and four other office-bearers

The Bengaluru police on Saturday arrested D Kempanna, president of the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association, and four other office-bearers in connection with a defamation case filed by horticulture minister Munirathna.

The arrested contractors were later released on bail. (Representative Image)
The arrested contractors were later released on bail. (Representative Image)

In August, the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association for the first time named and accused state Cabinet minister, Munirathna, of allegedly demanding bribes from contractors. Kempanna had accused Munirathna of instructing an executive engineer to collect money from contractors and threatening him with suspension from duty if he failed to comply.

After Kempanna’s allegations, Munirathna had warned that he would file a defamation case against him for making false accusations and asked him to back his claims with evidence. Muniratna then filed a civil defamation claiming 50 crore in damages and a criminal defamation case against Kempanna and 18 other office-bearers of the contractors’ association.

Along with Kempanna, the police arrested vice-presidents R Ambikapathy and V Krishna Reddy, treasurer HS Nataraj, and organising secretary BS Gurusiddappa of the association, after a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued for not appearing before the court in connection with the case.

All five, who were arrested, were brought before the magistrate at his home. They were released after the magistrate granted them bail on Saturday.

In response, Kempanna said that over 200 contractors from Kolar had written to him regarding bribes sought by Munirathna, who is also the district in-charge of Kolar.

The 8th additional chief metropolitan magistrate court hearing the criminal defamation case had issued a non-bailable warrant against Kempanna on December 19 following which the police arrested him.

The ‘40% commission’ row had made headlines in April, after the death of Belagavi-based contractor, Santosh Patil, who had accused Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former minister KS Eshwarappa of seeking 40% commission for a government project. However, a police investigation gave a clean chit to Eshwarappa on charges of abetting the suicide, but Patil’s family moved a special court in Bengaluru against the police closure report.

After this, many contractors had come forward to make similar allegations against government officials. The contractors’ association had launched a massive protest and threatened to stop all work for a month. However, they withdrew the protest after assurance from the state government to implement most of their demands.

They had brought up issue of corruption in various departments of the government and claimed that since December of last year, the state government had not paid their bills. Additionally, they had sent letters to the Prime Minister and Chief Minister seeking their intervention in the matter.

Kempanna had said that despite raising the issue several times, none of their demands were met. He had alleged that local contractors were not able to get any work as people from other states got work orders because of high corruption.

According to Kempanna, there are 1 lakh contractors under Class 1,2,3 and 4 in Karnataka. Out of this, 17,000 are Class 1 and 2 contractors.

Besides, in April, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Contractors Association, which has 2,480 members, also alleged that the government has not cleared bills since December last year. The association alleged rampant corruption by government officials who demand 40% commission in the tender process.

Meanwhile, Karnataka Congress in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala on Sunday slammed the BJP-led government in the state over Kempanna’s arrest. “Shoot the messenger, Protect the Corrupt! This is the #PayCM Govt of #Karnataka ! The arrest politically motivated & vindictive arrest of Mr. Kempanna by the #40PercentSarkara evidences it. CM @BSBommai cannot intimidate people exposing the truth,” Surjewala said on Twitter.

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