Bengaluru/New Delhi: A Special CBI court in Bengaluru on Wednesday acquitted former Karnataka Chief Minister and BJP state unit President B.S. Yeddyurappa in a bribery case, which the Congress dubbed as shocking.
Pronouncing the verdict in a packed courtroom in Bengaluru, Judge R.B. Dharamaguder also exonerated Yeddyurappa’s two sons B.Y. Raghavendra and B.Y. Vijayendra, his son-in-law R.N. Sohan Kumar and seven others in the Rs.40-crore graft case for lack of evidence.
“Justice is done. I stand vindicated,” a relieved Yeddyurappa tweeted soon after the verdict even as frenzied BJP cadres celebrated the verdict by bursting fire crackers and hailing him outside the court complex.
“I am happy that false allegations and politically motivated charges have been dismissed,” asserted Yeddyurappa.
The Central Bureau of Investigation registered the case on May 15, 2012, under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, regarding alleged grant of leases to mining firms as quid pro quo for donations made to Yeddyurappa’s family-run Prerana Education Trust at Shimoga during his tenure from 2008-2011.
The other accused included former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Minister S.N. Krishnaiah Shetty, South West Mining Company, Jindal Steel Works (JSW)), Real Technical Solutions Ltd. and Industrial Techno Manpower Supply and Services Ltd.
The Supreme Court on May 11, 2012, directed the CBI to register the case on the recommendation of a Central Empowered Committee (CEC) appointed by it for investigation into the alleged kickbacks for granting mining leases to the JSW and its subsidiary South West Mining Ltd.
The cases pertain to the Rs 10-crore donation by South West Mining to Prerana and the mining firm purchasing 1.12 acres of land that was freed from government control (denotified) from Raghavendra and Vijayendra in 2010 when Yeddyurappa was the Chief Minister.
The CEC also accused Yeddyurappa’s kin of receiving Rs 6 crore as bribe from mining baron Praveen Chandra through real estate firms set up by them.
Yeddyurappa, who was the first Chief Minister of the ruling BJP in south India, resigned after the Lokayuktha (ombudsman) Justice N. Santosh Hegde (retd) indicted him and recommended his trial in the mining scam.
Claiming that the verdict had come as a relief to lakhs of party workers, Yeddyurappa said that justice had given him an opportunity to bring the main opposition party in the state back to power in the 2018 assembly elections.
Noting that the verdict was a fillip to his move to bring his party back to power in the state, Yeddyurappa expressed confidence that the BJP would be voted again in the 2018 assembly elections for forming the government in the state.
Reacting to Yeddyurappa’s acquittal, Congress leader Sanjay Jha said in New Delhi that the party was stunned, surprised and shocked over the verdict, as CBI had overlooked the mounting evidence it was provided with in the case.
“This is clear case of political influence,” Jha told IANS.
Jha also charged that the CBI under (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi government had become a “Convenient Bureau of Investigation”, the way in which NIA (National Investigation Agency) has become “Namo Investigation Agency”.
Attacking the BJP-led central government, Jha said the institutions meant to investigate and furnish evidence were failing miserably in their task.
“It is evident that these are all under political influence,” Jha reiterated.
Jha said Yeddyurappa will, however, face the real test in public court, which will manifest itself in elections.
On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hailed the court decision.
BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma told IANS: “We are happy that the court has acquitted him of all allegations.”
“He (Yeddyurappa) has said earlier that the case against him was politically motivated,” Sharma said.
Terming the charges against his father and family as baseless, Raghavendra (Yeddyurappa’s son) said his family faced a lot of pain in the last five years.
“We finally got justice, which will help to strengthen our party. I am confident that the BJP come back to power in the state under my father’s leadership,” Raghavendra, a lawmaker from Shikaripura assembly segment in Shimoga district, told reporters here in Bengaluru later.