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Archives for : Santosh Hegde

Mining probe may singe media houses

With the Karnataka government setting up an SIT to probe illegal mining, some media houses may feel the heat. Imran Khan reports

2014-02-22 , Issue 8 Volume 11

Ravaged earth Illegal mining in Bellary had huge ecological and political costsRavaged earth Illegal mining in Bellary had huge ecological and political costs, Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Former Lokayukta Santosh Hedge’s probe into the multi-crore  scam in the iron ore-rich Bellary district of  had led to the downfall of the infamous Bellary brothers — Gali Janardhana Reddy,  and Somashekara Reddy — who were ministers in the then BJP-led state government. Hegde’s final report, filed in July 2011, extensively documented the nexus of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen who colluded to defraud the state exchequer of mining revenues.

However, among the beneficiaries of the  were several individuals who did not hold any public office, and whose role, therefore, was outside the ambit of the Lokayukta probe. Now, acting on directions from the Lokayukta court, the Congress government led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has set up a Special Investigation Team () under the Lokayukta to probe those who had managed to evade the clutches of the law.

The  probe will target those who figured in an initial report on  prepared by UV Singh, who was an investigating officer in Lokayukta Hegde’s team. Shockingly, Singh’s report, which forms part of Hegde’s final report, also names some persons associated with media organisations among the beneficiaries of .

Based on the documents seized by Income Tax officials during a raid in 2010 on the offices of Madhushree Enterprises, a firm owned by Madhukumar Varma, a close associate of Janardhana Reddy, Singh’s report shows that a hawala racket was being operated to channel money to some people associated with media organisations. While the seized documents do not clearly specify the purpose for which the money was being paid, the report states that since the money was being received from a firm involved in , it’s quite possible that it was being used for nefarious activities.

The seized documents have been included in the Lokayukta report as part of chapter 28 of Book 14 under the heading “Collapse of Administrative and Governance System”. Among those who are alleged to have received money from Madhushree Enterprises is a firm owned by Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar called Jupiter Aviation. Incidentally, Chandrasekhar also owns the Asianet media network, which runs Suvarna, a Kannada television news channel, and Kannada Prabha, a daily newspaper. An entry made on 9 August 2010 under the heading “amount given” shows that 12 lakh was given to the company, but there is no indication as to the purpose.

Similarly, Singh’s report shows that Deccan Aviation, which was set up by Captain GR Gopinath, considered a pioneer in the low-cost airline sector in India, had received Rs 25 lakh from the Reddy brothers.

The list of alleged beneficiaries from the  also includes two Bengaluru-based newspapers — Deccan Chronicle and Bangalore Mirror. While Deccan Chronicle is alleged to have received Rs 25 lakh, the Times Group-owned Bangalore Mirror allegedly received Rs 5 lakh. According to Singh’s report, in neither case has the purpose for which the money was handed over been specified.

While Jupiter Aviation and Deccan Aviation have claimed the money was for hiring choppers, Deccan Chronicle and Bangalore Mirror said it was payment for ads.

Probably, the most shocking revelation in Singh’s report is the mention of two initials — V Bhat and RB — that could refer to two stalwarts of Kannada journalism, who work in the print and electronic media. According to the seized documents, Rs 75 lakh was given to V Bhat and Rs 10 lakh to RB. Singh’s report also mentions Rs 5 lakh paid to “press club (Harish)”.

Documents recovered from Madhukumar Varma’s laptop also mention journalists being given money for a “son’s marriage” and for buying cameras. Singh noted that most of the money transactions were carried out through hawala channels. Though the amounts mentioned are not big, Singh argues that this could only be the proverbial tip of an iceberg. As a hawala network was involved, it would take a thorough investigation to establish the total amount of money that changed hands.

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Santosh Hegde panel to probe #Manipur encounter deaths

LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, The Hindu, Jan 9,2013

Former Lokayukta N Santosh Hegde. File photo

The HinduFormer Lokayukta N Santosh Hegde. File photo

Supreme Court rejects State’s demand to entrust job to NHRC

A high-power commission headed by the retired Supreme Court judge, Santosh Hegde, will probe six encounter deaths in Manipur.

A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ms. Ranjana Desai passed this order on a writ petition by the Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association, which complained that over 1,500 fake encounter deaths had occurred in the State in the last 10 years.

The Bench said: “This matter requires a further careful and deeper consideration.” It rejected Manipur’s contention that “the occasion for this court to examine those cases would arise only if it holds that the NHRC had failed to perform its statutory functions in safeguarding human rights of the people in the State.”

The Bench said entrusting the probe to the National Human Rights Commission “will completely dissipate the vigour and vitality of Article 32 of the Constitution.”

The Bench said “Article 21 coupled with 32 provides the finest guarantee and most effective protection of the most precious of all rights — the right to life and personal liberty. Any indication of violation of this right would put all the faculties of this court on high alert to find out the truth. In case the court finds that there has, in fact, been violation of the right, it would be the court’s bounden duty to step in to protect those rights against the unlawful onslaught by the state. We, therefore, see no reason not to examine the matter directly but only vicariously and second-hand, through the agency of the NHRC.”

The Supreme Court said: “It is true that Manipur is a disturbed area, that there appears to be a good amount of terrorist activity affecting the public order and, maybe, even security of that State. If the police version of the incidents in question were true, there could have been no question of any interference by the court. Nobody can say the police should wait till they are shot at. It is for the force on the spot to decide when to act, how to act and where to act. It is not for the court to say how the terrorists should be fought. We cannot be blind to the fact that even after 50 years of our independence, our territorial integrity is not fully secure. We request the commission to make a thorough enquiry in the first six cases.”

The commission, which includes the former Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh, and the former DGP, Karnataka, Ajay Kumar Singh, would also address the larger question of the role of the State police and the security forces and make a report on their functioning within 12 weeks. If it was found that they violated legal bounds, the commission should make its recommendations for keeping the police and security forces within the legal limits without compromising on the fight against insurgency, the Bench said.

 

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