Fresh trouble is brewing for JSW Steel Ltd, as the Karnataka government has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate alleged illegalities by receiving overloaded trucks carrying iron ore at its plant in upstate Bellary district.
The scope of the investigation also includes illegal mining, extraction and transportation activities as mentioned in the Lokayukta report. The seven-member SIT has been given three months to complete its probe and submit the report to the government.
The SIT is chaired by Deepak Sarmah, additional principal chief conservator of forest. Other members are inspector general of police (fire force) N Shivakumar, depart-ment of mines and Geology director H R Srinivas, Bellary deputy commissioner Amlan Adithya Biswas, department of commercial taxes additional commissioner J Ramalinge Gowda and department of transport joint commissioner (administration) Richard V D’Souza, besides D R Veeranna, additional director (mineral) with the department of mines and geology, as convenor.
According to a final report of the Lokayukta to state government on July 27 last year, JSW Steel had received massive quantity of illegal ore to the extent of 1.3 million tonnes by overloading and thereby caused a loss of Rs 324 crore to the state exchequer. JSW, through its subsidiary, South West Mining Company had also paid a bribe of Rs 30 crore to the relatives of former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa in return for a favourable recommendation from the government of Karnataka for sanctioning a captive mining lease, the report had stated.
In its affidavit before the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court on March 2, the government has stated that the SIT would probe the charges made against the company during the course of its investigation.
An email query to Mumbai-based JSW Steel seeking its response remained unanswered. JSW in its earlier response to the Lokayukta report had denied any such wrong doing.
The government’s affidavit comes in response to the interlocutory application filed by a non-governmental organisation.
Dharwad-based Samaj Parivartan Samudaya (SPS) is the petitioner in the illegal mining case in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It had sought an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged illegalities of JSW Steel, Adani Enterprises and Yeddyu-rappa. Subsequently, the Supreme Court had directed CEC to find out if the CBI inquiry is necessary in the case.
The CEC has completed its inquiry and is expected to submit its report to the apex court next week, which is set to hear the case on March 16, 2012.
The SPS submitted several documents running into 113-pages to the CEC in support of its allegation against Yeddyu-rappa and his family members and JSW Steel and Adani Enterprises.
As regards to Adani Enterprises, the NGO said in its application that it (Adani Enteprises) was involved in the scam relating to the theft of 550,000 metric tonnes of iron ore stored at the Belikere port. The interlocutory application filed by the NGO also alleged links between the former minister G Janardhan Reddy’s Associated Mining Company and Adani Enterprises, relying upon the Lokayukta report. The CBI is already investigating into this matter.
Noting that averments made by SPS are incorrect and inferences drawn are untenable, the government’s affidavit pointed out “that the request for CBI probe in such a casual manner is without any merit”.
With regard to allegations related to the role of Adani Enterprises in the theft of 5.5-lakh tonnes of iron ore from Belikere port, the government stated, “As Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL) has committed offences punishable under various sections of Indian Penal Code, charge sheets have been filed against AEL and other responsible persons of this company.” Adani Enterprises too had earlier said that they have not taken any steps which is illegal.
Keeping in view the gravity of the matter, the government handed over the probe into the theft case to the Criminal Investigation Department. “The investigation revealed that the AEL,” the statement said, “has facilitated 30 exporters to transport the seized 3.78 lakh tonnes of iron ore colluding with the Port Conservator and respective export firms”.