The misuse of commissions of inquiry by political parties is amply illustrated by the status of the Justice Padmaraj Commission: why was it set up, stalled and then not renewed despite a go-ahead from the high court?
This commission has been surrounded by controversies from the outset. It was constituted by the then chief minister BS Yeddyurappa to look into cases of illegal allotment of sites and denotification of land in Karnataka from 1995. Political observers felt this was a counter by Yeddyurappa against opposition leaders who had lodged denotification cases against him; hence the terms of the commission were set to look at all deals right from 1995. Thus, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, former external affairs minister SM Krishna, and former CM HD Kumaraswamy’s tenures would all come under the commission’s ambit.
After the ouster of Yeddyurappa following corruption charges, the Padmaraj Commission was dissolved during the tenure of DV Sadananda Gowda. The high court had issued a stay order, which was subsequently vacated, but then the commission was never renewed. Now, a petitioner, Amruthesh NP, has taken it this up in court, which has sent a notice to chief minister Jagdish Shettar asking why the commission should not be allowed to complete its inquiry and submit a
“As much as ` 1 crore had been spent on the commission. The commission had gathered evidence and documents across the state against top leaders. The judicial opinion was that the government had killed its own baby. It was done to protect powerful leaders,” Amruthesh said.
He said all his attempts to procure information about the Padmaraj Commission had failed. “The government advocate told the court that Justice Padmaraj himself was not interested in continuing the case. I knew that he had written letters to the government seeking extension of the commission. Hence, I challenged the move,” he underlined.
YSV Dutta, spokesperson of the JD(S), who played a major role in lodging of cases against Yeddyurappa maintained that reviving the Padmaraj Commission would have no meaning as the cases against the leaders were already pending before the Lokayukta court, high court and Supreme Court. He said the panel was formed a few hours after he lodged a complaint against Yeddyurappa. “The commission was constituted for a political reason. Yeddyurappa wanted to evade the investigation by telling the court that the cases were already being probed by the Padmaraj Commission. I presented this argument and secured a stay on the activities of the commission. The commission was created to guard Yeddyurappa,” Dutta contended.
Justice Padmaraj had written to the government that since the commission was probing illegalities of 15 years’ duration, the constitution of a special agency was necessary. Sources explained that he had also written a letter to the CBI urging it to take over the investigation.
Amruthesh, however, asserted that “there is political mischief behind the closure of the commission. The Justice Shah Committee appointed to probe the excesses committed during Emergency was dissolved in the same fashion. This is the next abrupt closure of a committee,” he added.
In case the court orders a fresh probe, the scenario of the upcoming assembly elections will become more dramatic as denotification cases against opposition leaders will also come up and the issue may grab centrestage.
Will the game of politicians seeking to settle scores with each other by misusing authority give them a rude shock in the end? One will have to wait for a while to know that.