Bengaluru: Appointment of Anand Singh, an MLA from the mine rich Ballari district as Minister for Forest, Ecology and Environment Department has drawn flak from various quarters as several cases are pending against him, including under the Karnataka Forest Act.
The Opposition Congress has hit out at Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa for appointing Singh, a businessman with mining interests, as Forest Minister.
"Forest minister facing 15 cases under Forest act. @BSYBJP allotting forest ministry to Anandsingh is illegal since he has over dozen cases pending against him, including serious offenses under Karnataka Forest Act. How can a person charged with serious offences head the ministry?" the Karnataka Congress tweeted.
Leader of the Opposition and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has also objected to Singh's appointment as Forest Minister and termed the decision as "not right".
Several twitter users have also opposed Singh being made the Forest Minister, pointing out a conflict of interest. An online petition has also been started, demanding that the Chief Minister drop him immediately.
Singh, one among the newly elected BJP legislators after defecting from Congress and facing disqualification, was inducted into the Ministry by Yediyurappa on February 6 and initially given the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumers Affairs portfolio on February 10.
Buckling under pressure from some newly inducted Ministers, reportedly including Singh, who were unhappy with portfolios allocated to them,the Chief Minister the very next day reallocated certain portfolios,appointing the Vijayanagara MLA as Minister for Forest, Ecology and Environment.
However, Singh on his part has maintained that the portfolio was allocated to him by the Chief Minister and that he did not ask for it.
Claiming that the cases against him were "minor violations", he linked them to traffic violations.
"...like traffic violation cases if you have vehicles, similarly- there are naturally cases of violation as the family has been in the mining business for long."
Singh's election affidavit filed ahead of the December 2019 bypolls says he has 15 cases pending against him, as also offences under the Indian Penal Code and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, to be read with violations of the Karnataka Forest Act.
He was arrested by CBI in 2013 connection with alleged illegal export of iron ore from Belikeri port in Karnataka. Singh was arrested in 2015 by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Karnataka Lokayukta on charges of illegal transportation of iron ore.
Two of Singh's cabinet colleagues Laxman Savadi and C T Ravi had on Wednesday come out in his defence, stating that cases against him were still being probed and not proven.
Singh, who was a close associate of tainted mining baron G Janardhana Reddy, was also in the Congress.