Karnataka may set up fast-track court to try illegal mining cases

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SiddaramaiahBangalore, July 23;Karnataka government may set up a fast-track court to try those named in the Rs 16,085 crore mining scam in the state, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah indicated on Tuesday, even as he favoured raising royalty on iron ore.

“Let’s do it also”, Mr. Siddaramaiah told Basavaraj Rayareddy (Congress), who stressed that there is a need to set up a fast-track court, during question hour in the state legislative Assembly.

“We will consider it,” he responded when Mallikarjun Siddaramappa Khuba (JDS) pushed for such a measure.

The then Karnataka Lokayukta Justice (Retd.) N. Santosh Hegde concluded in his final report submitted to the Government on July 27, 2011, that the loss to state exchequer due to “illegalities and irregularities” in mining in the state between 2006 and 2010 is Rs 16,085 crore.

Noting that it’s nearly two years since the report came, the Chief Minister admitted to delay in action against officials named in it but blamed the previous BJP government for it, pointing out that the Congress came to power only two months ago.

The Central Empowered Committee has gone into the illegal mining cases in Karnataka, which is also being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Responding to questions from Eshwar Bheemanna Khandre (Congress) and Mr. Rayareddy, Mr. Siddarmaiah said the Central government has fixed ten per cent (ad valorem basis) of market price of every tonne of iron ore as royalty (to the government).

“But the Centre does ask the State for its opinion. We will try to increase it (royalty) through correspondence with the Central government,” he said.

The Chief Minister listed the steps taken by the government regarding action taken against the officials named in the report, including issuance of notices, suspension, forcible retirement, filing of criminal cases and ordering of Lokayukta probe.

He, however, said there is a need to speed up the resolution of cases, adding, he would convene a meeting after the conclusion of the ongoing session and discuss steps need address the issue.

Mr. Siddaramaiah also said that as per the Mineral Year Book, 2010, of Indian Bureau of Mines, Karnataka has a total deposits of 2158 million tonnes of Hematite iron ore and 7,801 million tonnes of magnetite iron ore.

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