Karnataka Election: Congress asks EC to disqualify BJP’s B Sriramulu

Citing emergence of “grave corrupt practices including bribery of a judge” by BJP candidate B Sriramulu “in a sting revealed by Kannada media”, Congress asked EC to disqualify him, a day before voting

Photo by Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Web Desk

The Congress today petitioned the Election Commission demanding that BJP’s Molakalmuru and Badami candidate B Sriramulu be disqualified from contesting the Karnataka assembly elections, over a sting video allegedly showing him trying to a bribe a former chief justice of India's relative.

A delegation comprising senior Congress leaders Motilal Vora, Kapil Sibal, Mukul Wasnik, Randeep Singh Surjewala, RPN Singh and PL Punia met the Election Commission to submit the complaint.

"We have requested the Election Commission to disqualify B Sriramulu from contesting the election," Sibal told reporters after meeting the poll panel on Friday. Yesterday, the Congress released two videos, dating back to 2010, allegedly showing BJP leaders B Sriramulu and G Janardhana Reddy negotiating a bribe to a relative of a former chief justice of India to influence a verdict in a mining case.

The videos also appeared on a local channel in Karnataka. Later, state electoral authorities directed channels not to air the videos.

Full text of the Congress submission to the Election Commission

To,

Chief Election Commissioner and his companion Election Commissioners of India,

Election Commission of India

Nirvachan Sadan,

New Delhi 110001

Re: Emergence of grave corrupt practices including bribery of a judge by BJP candidate, B Sriramulu in a sting revealed by Kannada media

On behalf of Indian National Congress, we the undersigned are compelled to bring to the attention of the Hon’ble Election Commission, significant and shocking evidence, released by the Kannada media on the evening of May 10th, 2018, which clearly disqualifies Shri B Sriramulu as a candidate from contesting the upcoming Karnataka Election and warrants immediate exercise of the EC’s constitutional power under Article 324 of the constitution of India. The evidence gives rise to serious questions and allegation about certain heinous and deplorable criminal activities being indulged in by the BJP’s candidate Shri B Sriramulu {BJP candidate for Molakalmuru as well as Badami Assembly constituencies in Karnataka}:

  1. This clear cut evidence relates to grave corrupt practices including attempting to bribe a Supreme Court judge. It goes without saying that even on a cursory viewing of the incriminating evidence, a clear-cut case for the cancellation of the candidature of Shri. B. Sriramulu is made out for both the seats being contested by him the upcoming Karnataka elections.
  2. In a forty-minute video that has been made public and broadcast widely in the regional Kannada media on the evening of May 10th, 2018, it is clearly seen that the candidate Shri. B. Sriramulu and three other individuals (identified as G. Janardhan Reddy, Captain Reddy and Swamiji) are seen sitting with the son-in-law of a former Chief Justice of India. The discussion between them, as seen in the video and reported by the media, relate to the payment of money to the son-in-law to secure a favourable judgement of the Supreme court for the Reddy brothers. Upon viewing the video, there can be no doubt as to the agenda of the meeting taking place.
  3. Your good offices are aware that polling for Karnataka Assembly elections is to take place on 12.05.2018. it is sacred Constitutional responsibility of the Hon’ble Election Commission to ensure that the integrity of the Karnataka Assembly election is paramount and no individual or party to which he may belong, is above the process of the law

Background

  1. To fully understand the seriousness and genuineness of the charge being made, we need to recall the history of the Reddy brother’ mining operation and the legal charges that they are facing. As highlighted by the damning report of Karnataka Lokayukta and former Justice of the Supreme court, Justice Santosh Hegde in July 2011, the Obalapuram Mining company (OMC owned by Janardhan Reddy and co.) had been indicted as having engaged in illegal mining in the state of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The total amount of loss to exchequer has been calculated by the learned Lokayukta at a stunning Rs 35,000/- crores.
  2. Prior to that in the year 2009, OMC was charged with removing boundary pillars between the state of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to increase the reach of its mining operation. In the month of November 2009, the Government of Andhra Pradesh issued and order prohibiting all mining operation of OMC. This matter was the subject matter of challenge first before the Andhra Pradesh High Court and then the Supreme Court.
  3. This video is marked as having been shot in 2010. The same year when the appeal on the case first came up before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. We must indeed point out that there was indeed a favourable finding by the Supreme Court allowing the Reddy brother to continue their operations. This order came despite a Survey Report (based on a Survey conducted on the recommendation of the Supreme Court itself) strongly advising otherwise. In other words, the chain of event is supported by the sequence of events available. The Hon’ble commission may draw its own inferences from the record which is publicly available.
  4. It must be pointed that the given unprecedented nature of the charged and the numerous violations of the law it attracts – be it under the Indian penal Code 1860, the prevention of Corruption Act 1988 and even the representation of Peoples Act, 1951- it must be examined immediately and thoroughly. It is a disservice to the democratic process per se and the election being conducted, it in the light of this compelling evidence, the BJP candidate Shri. B. Sriramulu is still allowed to contest the upcoming elections. If no action is taken, it will soil the ‘Ganga’ of democracy as also the accountability of the Election Commission to ensure a free and fair election in the state of Karnataka.
  5. It is noteworthy to recall that in April 2017 this Hon’ble Commission has held candidates promoting corruption are to be treated on par with those charged with heinous crimes and must be barred from contesting polls for a certain period.
  6. As a matter of fact, in April 2017 following the first attempt to conduct the RK Nagar bypoll in Tamil Nadu, this Hon’ble Commission had indicated its plans to push for disqualification of candidates who offered bribes to voters. In fact, even before any election had taken place, the Hon’ble commission took immediate action. The reasoning employed by the Hon’ble commission was that there had been vitiating effect on the voter’s reasoning and that had to be undone. The reason this example is relevant is that before this laudable decision was taken by the ECI, the only evidence available was newspaper reports and videos obtained from sting operation. There was no formal investigation before the decision was taken. Yet the learned ECI knew that to allow the Election to be conducted while some individuals were more than prima facie found to be tainted, would be a disservice to the Constitution per se.
  7. It is also crystal clear from the recent illustrations that the Hon’ble Commission has a zero-tolerance policy towards candidates who engage in corrupt practices. It is also clear that the Hon’ble Commission enjoys vast and expansive powers under Article 324 to arrive at justiciable solutions to ensure that the integrity of the electoral process is not compromised. In this case, the only available remedy compatible with the principle of zero-tolerance towards allegation (and evidence) of corruption, is the disqualification of the BJP candidate named herein.
  8. That surprisingly, ECI/CEO Karnataka has proceeded to grant an injunction banning the Kannada Television Channels from playing the tapes instead of taking action against Shri. B. Sriramulu. Needless to add that this order is neither in the letter and in the spirit of the constitutional powers now is it warranted by facts and precedence brought out above.

Prayer

We therefore, humble and respectfully, seek the following direction directions from the Hon’ble Commission –

  • To take all such actions as may be necessary and required in law and direct immediate barring/disqualification of Shri. B. Sriramulu from contesting Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018; and
  • To take all such actions as may be necessary and required in law including direction for registration of offences against Shri. B. Sriramulu, for violation of provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the prevention of Corruption Act, 1988; and
  • To direct CEO Karnataka, to lift any injunction on the Kannada television channels or other media from showing; and playing the tapes.
  • To take all such suction as are necessary in law for holding a free and fair Elections to the Legislative Assembly of Karnataka;

Yours truly

With PTI inputs

The article was updated at 12.52 pm on March 11, 2018 to add details of composition of Congress delegation to Election Commission

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Published: 11 May 2018, 12:21 PM