If the assurance given to me is only a ruse, I don’t think I can take back my resignation

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KARNATAKA LOKAYUKTA
Santosh Hegde

Taking back my resignation has created another controversy. Mr [LK] Advani called me and requested that I take back my resignation. But, it was the cumulative effort of a large number of people who have been asking me to do so, including politicians from various parties, students, lawyers, and farmers.

Many people came in delegations. It was the effect of all that. I had put a condition that certain powers should be given to me, and this was assured when the Chief Minister [BS Yeddyurappa] visited me along with the national president of the Bharatiya Janata Party [Nitin Gadkari]. So, I will certainly carry on with my efforts to nail the people involved in illegal mining.

THE QUANTUM OF illegal iron ore is far more than we thought. We had found physical stock of 8.5 lakh metric tonnes of illegally transported ore. Of this, 5 lakh tonnes were slowly secreted out and transported from the port. But, from the government record, we have now found it was more than 35 lakh tonnes. Our investigation indicates that it could be far more for the past year alone. Now, 5 lakh metric tonnes is worth Rs 250 crore. Thirty-five lakh metric tonnes would come to about Rs 1,600 crore. If the quantity increases further, you can imagine what a huge scam it will be.

There is an argument thrown at us that says when we calculate the value of the illegal ore, we must only look at the loss caused to the state. This is not so. Iron ore is the property of the state. When it is stolen from the possession of the state, then the entire value of the ore is calculated. Not just the royalty and customs duty, but also the profits made by the people who have illegally exported the ore. So, it would come to more than Rs 250 crore for 5 lakh metric tonnes. I am very confident that if I have time in this institution, I will be able to trace the origin of the illegal ore backwards. This cannot be the work of a particular transporter or a group. It can only be the work of somebody very powerful.

I have agreed to take my resignation back, provided they give the investigative powers promised to me. Even otherwise, I have time till August 31. When I submitted my resignation, I said it would be effective from August 31. Even before that, I can complete most of my investigation and submit a report so the government and the people will know how and who could have done this.

powers since I came to this institution four years ago. One of the major things I wanted was the power to investigate suo motu, without complaint, officers of the rank Class I and above, and politicians holding public offices. That power originally rested with the first Lokayukta for six months, but it was removed thereafter.

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THE BACK STORY

THE SUSPICION
Hegde gets word from officers in Bellary that vast quantities of illegal iron ore are moving.

THE INVESTIGATION
Hegde sends teams on recce and finds 8.5 lakh tonnes of iron ore ready to be shipped.

THE RESIGNATION
Karnataka Government seeks to suspend Hegde’s IO saying he was guilty in the ore case.

Hegde resigns to save honest officer and to expose the ways of the government.

THE RESUMPTION OF DUTY
LK Advani intervenes and requests Hegde to continue.

Yeddyurappa and Nitin Gadkari assure Hegde he’ll get the powers he seeks. Hegde returns.

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This power was not given to me though I insisted. I stopped asking for it after a while, but I continued to do my job within the existing powers. Now, when we found 5 lakh tonnes stolen from the ore seized under my orders, the officer who investigated the scam [R Gokul] was sought to be implicated and sought to be kept under suspension. This would have led to disastrous consequences for the investigation.

I resigned immediately. What I said then has now been accepted by the Chief Minister [BS Yeddyurappa] on the floor of the House. He said nearly 35 lakh metric tonnes iron ore has been exported from Karnataka between October 2009 and March 2010. This is worth about Rs 1,600 crore.

I felt somebody was trying to screw up the investigation. Now that the Chief Minister has agreed that 35 lakh metric tonnes has gone, I can continue even though the investigation has been handed over to the CID. I will continue with my parallel investigation. If, meanwhile, I find a genuine effort on the part of the government to give me additional powers of investigation and allow me to take the guilty to court, then I am ok. That is fine.

Even now my resignation comes into effect from August 31, but I have been assured by the person who called me to withdraw my resignation [Advani], and by the person who came and met me [Yeddyurappa]. In this background, I thought I could withdraw my resignation. But, my agreeing to withdraw my resignation is a culmination of the effort of the people of Karnataka. All of them are responsible for persuading me.

On the floor of the House, the Chief Minister said Gokul will be rewarded. But, if I find that the assurance given to me is only a ruse to get me to withdraw my resignation, then I don’t think I can in reality take back the resignation.

In my previous article, there is a sentence about BJP leaders growing in muck like their lotus symbol. This reference is to a particular Karnataka minister [Krishna Palemar] who made disparaging remarks against me. I didn’t intend to make the remark against a political party. I intended it against this person.

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