Bengaluru: In a sigh of relief to BJP national Vice President and former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday set aside the order of sanction dated January 21, 2011 issued by the then Governor H.R. Bhardwaj to prosecute him in five cases of alleged illegal denotification of land.
While remitting the matter back to Governor Vajubhai Vala, the division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee and Justice Vineet Saran were of the opinion that the exercise of power by the then Governor was not in accordance with well settled principles for sanctioning prosecution.
The former CM in October 2011, had to face jail time for 21 days under judicial custody at central prison in Parappana Agrahara after he surrendered in connection in the same cases over alleged irregularities in denotification of land. The Special Lokayukta court had earlier rejected his bail plea.
He had challenged the legality of the sanction order dated January 21, 2011 issued by the Governor on the petition filed by the complainants Sirajin Basha and K.N.Balaraj. The sanction was accorded under various sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, Code of Criminal Procedure, and Indian Penal Code.
The court while allowing the petition in part, observed, “We know our limitations in considering these writ petitions that we are not concerned with the decision, but we are concerned with the decision making process. We have carefully gone through the order of sanction. With respect, the governor has quoted the complaint in detail in his order of sanction; virtually, there is no finding as to why he has accorded sanction in favour of the prosecution. There is no discussion as to why he was according sanction when his Council of Ministers have, already, appointed on December 22, 2010, Justice B.Padmaraj as one-man Commission to look into various irregularities in denotification of lands.”
The court was also of the opinion that, as the complaint was a private complaint, great care, caution and proper application of mind was necessary, particularly having regard to the ‘uneasy relationship’ between the then Chief Minister (the petitioner) and the then Governor. “If a crime was registered, followed by investigation for collection of evidence, both oral and documentary, the Governor could have in the hand materials for application of mind. The investigation agencies could have, also, recorded the statement of the accused, as the allegation was of acquisition of assets disproportionate to the known source of income of the accused,” it states.
Earlier the advocate for Mr Yeddyurappa had argued that the Governor, being the sanctioning authority, could not himself assume the role of an investigator also. He had further submitted that all the cases which have till now been considered by the Supreme Court were such in which, after investigation by the police or any other Investigating Agency, a charge sheet had been submitted, where the statement of the accused was, also, recorded, and all such papers were produced before the sanctioning authority after which, the case for grant of sanction was considered by the Authority; whereas in the present case, no such investigation was carried out, and if the Governor was the one, who was conducting inquiry himself, then the minimum that was required was to call for an explanation from the petitioner, which was not done.
The court further stated that it was unable to accept the contention of Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar that the question of sanction could only be agitated during trial. “We are of the opinion that the sanction could be challenged at any stage,” the court opined.
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