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Battling charges, the road ahead for Yeddyurappa

By Vicky Nanjappa
January 22, 2011 17:00 IST
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Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa finds himself in yet another mess, and this time the trouble has been caused after Governor H R Bharadwaj accorded sanction for his prosecution in connection with a land scam.

Even as the entire state remained shut following the bandh call given by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, advocates from both the BJP's side as well as the opposition kept the courts busy.

The road ahead for B S Yeddyurappa is a tough one as he finds himself embroiled in at least three legal battles pertaining to the same land scam. Rediff.com spoke to a couple of legal experts on this issue and they explained the possible way forward for the chief minister.

The first question that has been raised by the opposition is whether Yeddyurappa would tender his resignation following the sanction for prosecution.

The chief minister and also the party high command have clearly ruled this out, stating that 'mere filing of cases are no indication that he is guilty.'

However, Yeddyurappa cannot take these developments lightly since if any court finds him guilty, he is sure to find himself in an extremely embarrassing position.

The chief minister's legal team is working overtime to protect their leader. The first thing that they would be doing is moving the Karnataka high court on Monday morning, seeking a stay on Governor Bharadwaj's order against the CM.

However, the more important battle would be before the Special Lokayukta court before which two petitions seeking prosecution of the CM have been filed.

Two advocates moved this court a while ago after they had been granted permission to file these cases by Governor Bharadwaj.

This case would come up for hearing on Monday morning. When proceedings commence before the special court, the judge would hear the two lawyers who have filed their petitions and they would have to provide sufficient grounds against the CM.

The lawyers will have to provide material to show that the CM and the rest of his men are guilty of indulging in a land scam. They would also have to substantiate their arguments with ample material which will be considered by the court.

If the special court is satisfied with the arguments advanced by the two lawyers, then it can order an investigation into the alleged misdeeds by the chief minister.

Since the court is a special Lokayukta court it would first ask the Lokayukta police to conduct an investigation into the case. However the court could also direct the government to initiate an inquiry either by another agency which the government may deem fit.

The interesting part is that these two complaints have been filed before the Lokayukta court despite there being a similar complaint against the CM pending before the Lokayukta.

In Karnataka there are only two courts which deal with the Prevention of Corruption cases: the special Central Bureau of Investigation court and the Lokayukta court. However, this complaint could not have been filed before the CBI court since the agency does not have the jurisdiction to probe a case against the chief minister in the absence of a specific order by the high court, Supreme Court or the Union government.

However, these proceedings before the special court will be subject to an order of the high court which will hear the petition on Monday.

As stated earlier, the CM's team has decided to approach the high court on Monday and seek a stay on the order of the Governor. In case the high court does grant a stay then the proceedings before the special court cannot proceed.

However, the CM's team may not get a stay soon since the opposititon has decided to file a caveat, which would mean that no order can be passed without hearing the other party.

The troubles for the CM do not end here. While this case on hand may be the immediate headache for the CM, he still has to face proceedings by the Lokayukta and also the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice B Padmaraj.

While the Lokayukta is acting on a complaint given to him by the opposition, the commission of inquiry has been set up by the government itself.

Lokayukta of Karnataka Justice N Santhosh Hegde, when contacted, said that it is too early to say what would happen now.

"All the three cases are the same and each one will need to be investigated. I really do not know what to say about this since all the three appear the same to me and I do not know if there was a necessity to have three separate proceedings," Justice Hegde told rediff.com.

CM Yeddyurappa's counsel Vivek Reddy said that the case before the high court will be extremely crucial since a lot would depend on its order.

The high court under Article 226 of the Constitution has exceptional powers and can even strike down or stay an order of the Governor. Moreover, there is no bar on the high court to even issue notice to the Governor.

"Our first priority would however be to obtain a stay on the order of the Governor. Not only has he overstepped his brief, but he has also granted permission for proceedings when there are already similar proceedings before two other authorities. Another thing that is lacking in the Governor's order is that there is no sufficient reason given when the order was passed," Reddy told rediff.com

The legal team for the opposition, which has been gunning for Yeddyurappa's head, however, said that there is no bar for the Governor to pass such an order.

"We will give a suitable reply in all the courts that they have decided to move. There is also no bar in having two proceedings and a complainant is entitled to move any forum that he is comfortable with. Hence the Governor has done no wrong in passing such an order," a member of the opposition's legal team told rediff.com.

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