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Graft case: BS Yeddyurappa, 12 other accused not conspirators, says CBI court

New Delhi: The prosecution had failed to prove there was a meeting of mind and dominant object of a conspiracy between BS Yeddyurappa and 12 other accused, the CBI court has held while acquitting him and others in its verdict in a Rs 40 crore graft case related to illegal mining.

The court which pronounced its judgement on Wednesday, copy of which was available today, also did not find even an “iota of evidence” to prove that the former chief minister has abused his official position as a public servant.

“The prosecution has failed to prove there was a meeting of mind and dominant object of a conspiracy between accused Number One, Yeddyurappa and 12 others including B Y Vijayendra and B Y Raghavendra, his sons,” Judge R B Dharmagoudar said in his order.

The judge observed that an offence of conspiracy cannot be deemed to have been established on mere suspicion and surmises or inferences which are not supported by cogent evidence. He also said the prosecution failed to prove each and every circumstances so as to complete the chain and “suspicion cannot take the place of a legal proof”.

The petitioner had alleged that Yeddyurappa in furtherance of a conspiracy, by abusing his official position as a public servant, had illegally denotified Rachenahalli land here to obtain pecuniary advantage to his kin and fixed premium of iron ore at 50 per cent and suppressed the loss suffered by state-owned Mysore Minerals Ltd (MML).

The petitioner had also alleged Yeddyurappa had imposed ban on export of iron ore to favour JSW Steel Limited and in turn obtained a pecuniary advantage to his kin as a quid-pro- quo from South West Mining Limited and other two accused in the form of inflated sale price and in the form of donation to Prerana Educational and Social Trust, run by Yeddyurappa’s family.

Pronouncing his judgement, Dharmagoudar said the prosecution has failed to prove that Yeddyurappa abused his official position in denotifying Rachenahalli land for obtaining a pecuniary advantage to his two sons and son-in-law Sohan Kumar.

CBI had filed a charge sheet in 2012 against Yeddyurappa, his sons and son-in-law, Prerana Trust, M/s South West Mining Company and Bellary-based M/s JSW Steel for alleged abuse of official position and corruption invoking Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the India Penal Code and various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The charge sheet had alleged involvement of Rs 40 crore kickbacks, including Rs 20 crore that was allegedly paid to Prerana for granting favours, including mining licences, during Yeddyurappa’s chief ministership from 2008 to 2011.

In his order, the judge said the prosecution has failed to prove the abuse of official position by Yeddyurappa to show favour to JSW Steel Limited represented by (then) Company General Manager Mani C Manuel, either in fixing of premium on iron ore fines, suppression of loss suffered by MML or in the matter of imposition of ban on export of iron ore. He also held the prosecution failed to prove that South West Mining Limited’s representative Rajiv Bansal had purchased land in Rachenahalli at inflated price to cover up the receipt of bribe.

The prosecution also failed to prove that the donation given by accused including South West Mining to Prerana Educational and Social Trust represented by its Managing Trustee Raghavendra was a bribe in disguise, the judge held.

The court set aside the charge against Yeddyurappa that he had abused his official position as a public servant in the matter of fixing of premium on iron ore at 50 per cent instead of 60 per cent and imposing ban on export of iron ore.

“I have already held that absolutely there is no iota of evidence to prove that Yeddyurappa has abused his official position as a public servant in the said matters and also in the matter of denotifying Rachenahalli land.”

“Therefore, the question of Yeddyurappa cheating the government of Karnataka with an intention to cause wrongful loss to the State and to make a wrongful gain to his kin does not arise at all,” the judge said.

On the other hand, the judge said there is ample evidence on record to show that after fixing the premium of iron ore fines at 50 per cent, the MML has started making huge profit compared to previous years.

“The government of Karnataka cannot be said to have sustained any wrongful loss on account of denotification of Rachenahalli village land, since the denotification of the said land is found to be valid,” he observed. He also said there was absolutely no iota of evidence on record to prove that South West Mining Limited and JSW steel representatives had induced Yeddyurappa’s kin and Prerana Educational and Social Trust to exercise their personal influence over Yeddyurappa to do an official favour to JSW Steel represented by Mani Manuel.

There also absolutely no evidence on record to prove that other accused including SWML and JSW Steel representatives had abetted Yeddyurappa for abuse of his official position in exercise of his official functions to show favour to JSW Steel representative Mani Manuel, the judge said.