BJP MLA Harish Poonja booked for abusing police over arrest of illegal-mining-accused BJYM worker

Harish Poonja was seen abusing police personnel for arresting a rowdy-sheeter and BJP worker Shashiraj Shetty in an illegal stone quarry case.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published May 19, 2024 | 10:59 PM Updated May 19, 2024 | 10:59 PM

[Left] File photo of BJP MLA Harish Poonja, who has been booked, and [right] Poonja sitting for a protest in front of Belthangady Police Station in the early hours of Sunday, 19 May, 2024.

Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada Police on Sunday, 19 May, registered an FIR against Belthangady MLA Harish Poonja for allegedly abusing them.

Poonja was booked after he abused police personnel over their arrest of rowdy sheeter and Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) mandal president Shashiraj Shetty over operating an illegal stone quarry.

Poonja shared a video on his official Facebook account, where he could be heard abusing the on-duty police and pressuring them to release the arrested Yuva Morcha worker.

Local police on Saturday arrested Shashiraj Shetty — based on the complaint of the Belthangady tahsildar — for allegedly operating a stone quarry without a licence and also recovered explosives from the illegal mining site.

The cops are now said to be on a hunt for the main accused, BJP worker Pramod Ujjire, who is said to be the co-owner of the illegal stone quarry.

Shetty has, meanwhile, been produced in court and sent to judicial custody for 15 days.

Objecting to the arrest of Shashiraj, Poonja reportedly rushed to the Belthangady Police Station late at night and sat in protest inside, demanding Shetty’s release.

Also Read: Police arrest right wing influencer for allegedly peddling fake news

The arrest

Belthangady Tahsildar Prithvi Sanikam filed his complaint after recently conducting a raid on the illegal stone quarry in Mudala in the Melanthabettu village at Belthangady.

He registered the police complaint after the tahsildar found evidence of illegal stone quarrying and explosive materials at the site, he confirmed to South First.

Belthangady police subsequently arrested Shashiraj Shetty on the charges of illegal mining late at night on Saturday.

They booked Shetty under Section 9B(1)(b) of the Explosives Act of 1884 and the Explosive Substance Act of 1908.

Dakshina Kannada Superintendent of Police (SP) CB Ryshyanth told South First: “Police acted based on the complaint filed by Belthangady tahsildar. He videographed the illegal mining operation and provided the evidence to the cops.”

He added: “Police have initiated a probe on the matter. When four-five labourers of the quarry were questioned, it was found out that the quarry was operated by a North Indian.”

The SP continued: “He revealed that Shashiraj, who is a rowdy sheeter, and Pramod were also involved in this. Prima facie, it appears they were carrying out quarrying without any licence. We have also found explosives from the site.”

He further said: “The officials are cracking down on the illegal mining sites, considering previous instances including the explosion in Shivamogga that killed at least 13. We found similar explosives on this site.”

Ryshyanth added: “We have formed multiple teams to arrest the main accused, who has gone underground. Shashiraj has been produced before the court and sent to 15 days of judicial custody.”

Sexual abuse: Special court issues arrest warrant against JD(S) MP Prajwal Revanna

Shashiraj is innocent: Harish Poonja

Stating that Shashiraj was innocent, BJP’s Belthangady MLA Harish Poonja asserted: “Local police are dancing to the tunes of the Congress government. I will continue to protest until justice is served.”

Karnataka BJP MLA Harish Poonja Congress Dakshina Kannada Shashiraj Shetty Illegal Mining

BJP MLA Harish Poonja sat for a protest in front of Belthangady Police Station in the early hours of Sunday. (Supplied)

Following Shashiraj’s arrest, Poonja allegedly mobbed the Belthangady Police Station along with BJP workers early morning on Sunday and staged a protest.

In the videos he posted on Facebook, Poonja was found abusing police and demanding Shashiraj’s release.

He was heard accusing the police of “betrayal” for “arresting an innocent person around 2 am and torturing him”

When he cautioned the sitting protest inside the police station, the on-duty police tried to pacify him and give him details of the case.

However, Poonja did not budge. The cops then apparently asserted that Shashiraj had been arrested as an FIR was registered against him.

The BJP MLA continued to protest, arguing that Shashiraj is innocent. “I have no objection if you take action against the person concerned in this case,” he, however, insisted.

In another video, he was purported found abusing the on-duty police inspector: “You have arrested an innocent. We will not tolerate this kind of harassment. Is the police station your father’s property?”

Poonja later told South First: “The police have arrested an innocent person in this case. What was the necessity to arrest him at midnight? Shashiraj is not related to this case. He is not involved in illegal mining.”

He added: “We do not have any objection to police arresting the main accused, who is also a party worker. But, we will not tolerate the arresting of the innocent.”

He alleged: “They are acting at the behest of Congress. The law-and-order situation has completely deteriorated across the state.”

The BJP lawmaker also said that he would continue to protest on Monday.

Also Read: BJP leader remanded to judicial custody in molestation and rape case

FIR against Poonja

Dakshina Kannada Police at Belthangady on Sunday booked Poonja for reportedly abusing the on-duty police personnel and preventing a public servant from discharging their duty.

An FIR was registered against Poonja based on the complaint of Belthangady police.

He has been booked on Sections 353 (preventing public servants from discharging their duty) and 504 (offences against public tranquillity and peace) of the IPC.

The Dakshina Kannada SP confirmed this to South First and said: “He has misbehaved with police. That is unbecoming of an MLA.”

Ryshyanth added: “The law is equal for everyone. It does not differ for political party workers or MLAs.”

He noted: “Police were performing their duties based on the complaint filed by the tahsildar. We will initiate action against him [Poonja] as per the law.”

Responding to the FIR registered against him, Poonja told South First: “An MLA has been booked for merely seeking justice for an innocent person. Karnataka is turning into a goonda state under the Congress rule.”

He alleged: “There is no money for development. The ruling party wants to play vengeance politics, targeting BJP party workers. The law and order has completely collapsed in the state. We will continue to fight against the atrocities of the state government.”

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)