SC orders SIT to probe against former Karnataka CMs N Dharam Singh, H D Kumaraswamy in iron-ore mining case

Asmita Sarkar
SC orders SIT to probe against former Karnataka CMs N Dharam Singh, H D Kumaraswamy in iron-ore mining case

The Supreme Court asked Karnataka Police SIT on Wednesday (March 29) to probe into allegations against two ex-chief ministers — N Dharam Singh and H D Kumaraswamy — in an ongoing iron-ore mining case and file a report within three months. The court also stayed the high court's proceedings against Singh directing it to not pass any order against him.

Another former Karnataka chief minister SM Krishna, who recently joined the BJP, however, got a relief as the apex court said the stay on the investigation against him will continue during the said period.

The SIT was given three months to file a report in the iron-ore mining case. 

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One of the complainants, TJ Abraham, said the former chief ministers, several bureaucrats and others, had deregistered a huge tract of forest land and given permission for illegal iron-ore mining on a large scale. The complainant had also referred to various reports of the then Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde. Several politicians, bureaucrats and others were indicted then.

The Karnataka High Court had ordered Singh to pay Rs 23 crore for the losses caused to the exchequer by permitting transportation of illegally extracted iron ore. In April 2016, senior advocate Fali S Nariman was roped in by the Supreme Court to assist it in deciding on a plea by Singh against the high court's order. 

The then governor Rameshwar Thakur had said on June 23, 2009, that no action was required against Singh as he had not made pecuniary gains. However, the high court was not convinced.

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Singh was leading the Congress-JD(S) coalition government between May 2004 and February 2006. He had also been in-charge of the mines and geology portfolio. He reportedly had been under pressure to issue permits to allow lifting and transporting of iron ore from patta lands without a valid mining lease, according to top bureaucrats close to the case.

"When Mr Singh delayed issue of permits following strong objections from his senior officers, the powerful mining lobby led by miners-turned-legislators tried to unseat him. Finally, yielding to the lobby, he passed an order to issue permits to save his chair. But by then, the lobbyists led by young miners-turned legislators from Ballari had formed the JD(S)-BJP coalition government," the officers told Deccan Chronicle.

"The fact that orders of Mr Singh were given effect to after he demitted office is irrelevant because there is no evidence to show that his orders were ever brought to the notice of the successor government," they added. 

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