“If you are expecting any changes after the release of the Lokayukta report, I’m sorry but I’ll have to pour not a bucket but a barrel of ice cold water on your expectation”, said former Karnataka Additional Chief Secretary and retired bureaucrat V Balasubramaniam, speaking at a talk organised by DAKSH, a Bangalore-based independent civil society group, to discuss the implications of the Lokayukta’s report on illegal mining. The event was held on October 2nd 2011 in the city.

Balasubramaniam, whose report on Recovery of Karnataka Public Land was rejected by the state's then Revenue Minister, Karunakar Reddy, said that government as it did with the Lokayukta’s first report will go through the motions of pretending to take action but eventually nothing would come off it.

Karnataka MLC and JD(S) leader M C Nanaiah, M C Nanaiah speaking at the October 2nd event. On his left is V Balasubramaniam, former Karnataka Additional Chief Secretary and Chairman of the state Task Force for Recovery of Public Lands. Pic: Sriram V.

Balsubramanium’s pessimism was shared by most of the other panelists which included MLC and JD(S) leader M C Nanaiah, Former chairman of Karnataka Legislative Council and Congress leader B L Shankar, Sarah Joseph and Chandan Gowda of the city's Azim Premji University.

DASKH member A K Vasavi, in her opening statements said the talk was an attempt to understand the structural impact of illegal mining in Karnataka. And to look into the large system of illegality, aided by bureaucratic and political complicity, which has lead to the massive loss to the exchequer and degradation of the environment.

Vasavi said that on a recent visit to Bellary what she found most shocking was the total co-option of the all sections of the civil society in Bellary by the illegal mining industry.

MLC and JD(S) leader M C Nanaiah said that at present, money has become the guiding force in Karnataka politics. “Even though India is a federal country, some individuals have converted Bellary into a kingdom of their own, where the laws of the country do not apply” he said. Talking about the consequences of the the report, Nanaiah said that Justice Santosh Hegde had done a good job with the report but he felt that this report might suffer the same fate as the first Lokayukta report on illegal mining, “which has been coolly buried”.

"Politicians are keenly aware about the fact that public memory is very short lived and that they devise their strategies based on this awareness."
Former chairman of Karnataka Legislative Council and Congress leader B L Shankar

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Naniah said that the Lokayukta Act needs to be amended to ensure that the Government acts upon its recommendations instead of just setting up committees of bureaucrats and that it was the duty of civil society organisations and the legal fraternity to ensure that it is taken to its logical end. “What is in the Lokayukta report is just a small speck. There is much more which is yet to be uncovered”, he said.

Former chairman of Karnataka Legislative Council and Congress leader B L Shankar said that politicians are keenly aware about the fact that public memory is very short lived and that they devise their strategies based on this awareness. “The then CM referred the case of illegal mining in Bellary to the Lokayukta only in the hope that by the time the report was out people would forgotten about the whole issue” he said. Shankar said that the situation in Karnataka has deteriorated dramatically after businessmen, who once used to fund parties themselves entered into politics and then into government. According to him this clash of interests is fundamental to the present crises and that the governments can not take any measures to correct this as they are in the control of vested interests.

Shankar also said that there are hundreds of cases of even greater importance still languishing in the Supreme Court. He said that people involved in illegal activities hire top lawyers paying large sums of money to ensure that the cases drag on. Shankar suggested that along with providing Suo Moto powers to the Lokayukta, the Lokayukta Act must be amended to do away with the time limit to begin an investigation as stipulated in Section 8 of the act. He also suggested that fast track courts must setup to hear the cases investigated by the Lokayukta so as to ensure that not only are the guilty punished but also to see that the innocent are not victimised.

According to Dr Sarah Joseph, legality and illegality share a very symbiotic relationship. “More than illegality, it is the ingenious misuse of laws which is more frightening”, she said. Sarah also went to say that laws and regulations generate the framework under which illegality can thrive and that laws can easily be used to intimidate opposition and for the benefit of a few. She said that new laws would eventually only end up as tools for more illegality. She said that there is a substantial between gap law and justice and that notion of public interest has completely forgotten.

Harish Narasappa, Lawyer and President of DAKSH, lamented about the commodification of law and said that lawyers needed to introspect as to how to move away from it. He said that the society is busy building grand structures which are completely hollow inside. “The whole legal system is about to implode and fall soon”, he opined.