In a set back for the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday said agencies can investigate allegations against Chief Minister BS Yeddiyurappa that he engineered the collapse of the Congress-Janata Dal-Secular government in 2019, Live Law reported.
In 2019, the 14-month-old coalition government led by HD Kumaraswamy had collapsed after several MLAs from the two coalition parties switched over to the BJP. Eventually, the coalition lost the trust vote in the state Assembly on July 23, following which the Bharatiya Janata Party formed the government with BS Yediyurappa as the chief minister.
The Congress had blamed the saffron party for the turmoil. It alleged that the BJP used its controversial “Operation Lotus” strategy to engineer defections, poaching MLAs by offering them bribes and other incentives.
During the crisis, an alleged audio clip was released of a conversation between Yediyurappa and Sharanagouda Patil, son of Gurmitkal JD(S) MLA Naganagouda Patil. The BJP leader allegedly tried to persuade Sharanagouda Patil to get his father to switch sides. In return, Yediyurappa offered him Rs 10 crore and a position in his government.
Patil later filed a complaint against Yediyurappa and others and a first information report was registered in the matter under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act 2018.
Yediyurappa then moved the court. In February 2019, the High Court had stayed the investigation into the allegations levelled against Yediyurappa.
This changed on Wednesday, when a Bench of John Michael Cunha ordered to vacate the stay and allowed an inquiry in the matter.
“As the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR and the contents of the complaint lodged by respondent No.2, [Patil] prima facie disclose the commission of cognizable offences, the jurisdiction of this Court under section 482 Cr.P.C. [Criminal Code of Procedure] and Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India [which define the powers of the High Court] cannot be exercised to quash the above complaint and the FIR registered against the petitioners,” the judge said.
“Resultantly, petitioners being not entitled for the main relief claimed in the petitions, the question of continuing the interim order may not arise at all,” he added.
Justice Cunha said that after hearing the allegations and counter allegations made by the petitioner and the defendants, the court was left with no option but to permit the investigating agency to continue the probe and “unearth the true facts behind the secret meeting held within the closed doors at an unearthly hour”.
The Congress hailed the verdict. “The illegitimate born and unconstitutionally formed Yediyurappa government must now go, or CM Yediyurappa and his spurious BJP Govt must be sacked,” party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala wrote on Twitter. “Will PM [Narendra] Modi now show conviction? Will PM show moral fibre to sack the chief minister?”