The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday granted interim bail to BJP MLA K. Madal Virupakshappa, 74, who had been absconding since the Lokayukta raids last week that led to the arrest of his son V. Prashant Madal along with four others in a bribery case.
The single bench of Justice K. Natarajan granted anticipatory bail to the MLA against a bail bond of Rs 5 lakh with surety, while directing him to appear before the investigating officer within 48 hours of receiving the order copy. The next hearing has been posted to March 17. Virupakshappa had also sought quashing of the FIR filed by the anti-corruption watchdog.
Last week, the Lokayukta had caught Prashant Madal red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 40 lakh on behalf of his father, the chairman of the Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited (KSDL), for allegedly awarding a contract. The Lokayukta which raided the private office of Prashant, a chief account with the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and his residence recovered Rs 8.23 crore in cash, gold, silver and land documents.
While the court seems to have granted interim relief to Virupakshappa, who was evading arrest, the saffron party battling the “40% commission” charges in an election year finds itself in a tight spot. Even though Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai assured that an “impartial probe” would take place and former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa asserted that Madal would be arrested and brought to justice, the interim bail to the accused has raised several questions over the efficiency and intent of the Lokayukta.
Virupakshappa, a Lingayat leader representing Channagiri assembly constituency in Davanagere district had won the seat for the first time in 2008, though he joined the BJP in 2004 after quitting the Congress party. He had joined the Karnataka Janata Paksha floated by Yediyurappa fter the Linagayat strongman was forced to step down as the chief minister and had to spend time in jail after being indicted by the Lokayukta in its report on illegal mining in the state.
This time, Virupaksha, who is suffering from heart ailments was hoping to secure the ticket for his son Mallikarjun Madal from Channagiri. However, the BJP leadership seems to be in no mood to give the opposition any further ammunition to corner it over the corruption charges as the election campaign is about to catch steam in the state. The party might deny ticket to Virupakshappa and his kin to contest in the upcoming polls, say sources in the BJP.
Senior BJP leaders have distanced themselves from the episode saying the party did not support any form of corruption. Yediyurappa, who was in Jewargi in Kalaburgi to address the Vijay Sankalp Yatra on Monday, told the reporters that the party’s state unit had sent a report to the Central Parliamentary Board and was confident that appropriate action would be taken against the MLA.
“The MLA will be arrested in a day or two and the law will take its course. Anyone indulging in corruption is an unpardonable crime and our party will not support it,” Yediyurappa had said.
On Tuesday, Virupakshappa’s counsel Suman in his bail plea had mentioned that Virupakshappa, who represents Channagiri Assembly constituency was 74 years old and had a stent in his heart and his name was being dragged into the case despite there being no evidence against him.
“The court has granted bail as there is no evidence to prove that Virupakshappa has demanded bribe. The FIR does not mention of any allegation against my client (Virupakshappa) and even the trap mahazar does mention his name. Awarding tender is the prerogative of the tender inviting authority and the chairman has no role in it. His name has been unnecessarily dragged into the case. There is no evidence to say there was any demand or acceptance of bribe as per the Prevention of Corruption Act. I fail to understand how my client has been assumed to be the accused,” said the counsel.