In a setback to Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered him to face trial in a 2007 land allotment case.
A bench comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and Prafulla C. Pant set aside a 2011 ruling of the Karnataka high court that quashed criminal proceedings against the former chief minister.
The verdict comes at a time when the JD(S) has questioned the Congress government’s decision to reinstate former home minister K.J. George in the state cabinet on Monday. George was forced to resign over allegations that he had a role in the suicide of deputy superintendent of police (DSP) M.K. Ganapathy in July.
“If they (state government) did have the morals, they could have told the high command to wait for the completion of the probe to re-induct George," JD(S) spokesperson Y.S.V. Datta said on Monday.
Vinod Kumar, a Bengaluru-based advocate, had obtained information under the Right to Information Act that Kumaraswamy had allotted approximately 80 acres of land to a cooperative housing society just four days before he demitted office in 2007.
The allotment came into question as Vishwabharati House Building Cooperative Society Ltd executed a sale deed in favour of Anita Kumaraswamy, the chief minister’s wife, without disclosing the value of the transaction.
Another allegation against Kumaraswamy is that Janthakal Enterprises, a mining company, was allowed to lift 100,000 tonnes of iron ore without requisite permissions under the Forest Conservation Act.
After preliminary investigation, a trial court in Bengaluru had issued summons to Kumaraswamy and his wife, which they challenged in the high court.
The Karnataka high court quashed the case in 2011, finding that there was no sanction to begin investigations against Kumaraswamy in a criminal case. The court had also fined the petitioner, raising doubts on his motive.
“Sanctions to begin criminal investigation against a government servant are required only for crimes under the Indian Penal Code and not under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The High court wrongly decided that there was no sanction," explained Nikhil Majithia, lawyer appearing for the petitioner.
“The allegations against me are baseless and I am ready to face anything," Kumaraswamy told India Today TV in Bengaluru on Tuesday.
However, the latest developments could see the JD(s) on the defensive as another case of corruption comes back to haunt the first family of the party. Kumaraswamy is the son of former Prime Minister H.D. Devegowda.
Calls to Kumaraswamy and his wife Anitha, a member of Parliament from Karnataka, remained unanswered.