Mining baron and former state BJP minister Gali Janardhan Reddy was identified as the main player in these cases.
In a two para missive from December 2016, accessed by CNN-News18, the Central Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Corruption Branch told the Industries and Commerce department that “no prima facie case is made out to justify registration of a case” on the question of illegal export of iron ore from Karnataka through Goan ports.
This comes three years after an inquiry was ordered against Janardhan after the Lokayukta blew the lid off illegal mining in Karnataka. Contrary to the claims of the CBI, the Lokayukta report claimed that more than 12.57 crore metric tonnes of iron ore was transported from Goan ports.
Dismayed by a series of closure reports filed by investigative agencies, former Lokayukta Santosh Hegde said, “Can it be disputed that 2.4 lakh worth metric tonnes was deposited in Belekeri port? Can it be said this disappeared? There should be somebody answerable for this, 2, 40,000 tonnes is a huge amount.”
“It requires dozens of ships to be taken away. And how can it go when it is controlled by the Port Officer, by the Investigating Officers of the Lokayukta. How can anybody explain?” he added.
“I am so sorry that after all the effort, we get to see this result…. VIPs are getting acquitted, appeals are not being filed on time. The SIT has been working there for three years and nothing but filing the reports. A premier organisation like CBI has been filing B reports,” he said.
Questioning how the case was handled, Hedge said the Lokayukta team had documented the case properly without any malice against any individual or company. “All the documents were produced along with the report. If the material produced by the Lokayukta is of no merit, then I think we have to relook at the judicial system,” he said.
So far there are 63 cases against Janardhan in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Out of these, 10 cases with Special Investigation Team (SIT) Lokayukta concerning Belekeri port, the chargesheet hasn't been filed yet. These cases are still under investigation. Around 28 of these cases are with the CBI in which chargesheet has been filed in almost all but the progress is slow.
All cases related to illegal transportation of iron ore from ports in Mangalore, Karwar, Krishnapatnam and Goa have been disposed of due to lack of evidence to investigate.
In the cases lingering in Andhra Pradesh concerning Obalapuram mining scam, investigation hasn't started yet due to an inter-state border dispute.
Vishnu Kamat, an environmental activist, said, “In the case of Laksmi Aruna, wife of Janardhan Reddy, the CBI for reasons known to only itself has taken a stand to not appeal against her discharge. In the case of Deccan Mining Syndicate, it is very regrettable that the CBI Special Court has discharged all the accused.”
Six months ago, the case against former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa which cost him the CM post where he was accused of taking a bribe by a cheque, also fell apart and all accused were acquitted.
The Karnataka High Court discharged Janardhan and his companies two months ago on a technicality that the Enforcement Directorate had used the wrong provisions of the law in pursuing this case. Surprisingly, the ED has not pursued an appeal, and some activists have sought to file a complaint in the Supreme Court.
Yeddyurappa had two cases against him related to illegal mining which were disposed by a CBI trial court.
Activists allege that both Janardhan and Yeddyurappa enjoy close ties with the Centre because of which they have been bailed out. Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy of Janata Dal (Secular) says it is a known fact that Centre is helping them. Hence, cases against BJP leaders are being quashed.
Kumaraswamy, who himself is accused in a mining scandal, said he has nothing to do with any miners.
Yeddyurappa rubbishing the accusations said there is no interference from the Centre. He instead blamed the Congress party for not acting against illegal mining.
The Congress government has set up a committee on mining but hasn’t yet brought out an action taken report. Nor has it acted on the 19 big miners indicted by the then Lokayukta. The state government’s SIT too has not pursued cases – while some of the closure reports involve cases against sitting Congress Minister Santosh Lad and former BJP MLC Anand Singh.
“It’s just that everybody is involved in it. The Chief Ministers were involved in it, the political parties. The Congress is there, JD (S) is there, BJP is there. So naturally when it comes to this – you scratch my back, I scratch yours,” Hedge said.
Reacting to the report, H K Patil, state Minister for Rural Development and chairman of the cabinet sub- committee on mining, admitted that they were unable to bring out an action taken report. He however said, “The committee had given many directions to the concerned authorities. If the investigating agencies and concerned people are not doing their job, how am I responsible?”
He said that the Congress government will set up five fast track courts to deal with illegal mining cases. “The proposal is of setting up five fast track courts for day-to-day hearing of mining cases and ensure a speedy trial,” Patil said.