Channagiri constituency MLA Madal Virupakshappa of the BJP moved the High Court of Karnataka for anticipatory bail on the morning of Monday, 6 March, four days after he and five others — including his son Prashanth — were booked for corruption.
Along with the bail petition, Virupakshappa’s legal team also applied for quashing of the FIR against him and his son.
Lokayukta sources, meanwhile, told South First that his anticipatory bail plea would be challenged.
Prashanth was caught red-handed while accepting a bribe of ₹40 lakh on behalf of his father at his office on Crescent Road in Bengaluru — apparently the first installment of a bribe.
Just a day later, the Lokayukta Police seized ₹8.3 crore in cash from the office of BJP MLA Madal Virupakshappa and the residence of his son on Friday, 3 March.
According to court sources, the legislator’s petitions were admitted and were likely to come up for hearing on Tuesday.
The MLA’s advocate approached the bench of Justice K Natarajan seeking an urgent hearing of the petition, and the court said it would hear it after listing it on Tuesday.
What bail plea claims
Sources said that the legislator’s anticipatory bail petition stated that the Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited (KSDL) contract said to be at the heart of the case had nothing to do with bribes.
It also said that the MLA, as the chairman of the KSDL, had no role to play in the case.
However, a case was registered in this regard in haste as there was a conspiracy against him and his family members.
And since the Lokayukta was likely to make more arrests in the case, the MLA’s advocate requested the court that anticipatory bail be granted.
Search for MLA underway
Meanwhile, Lokayukta sources told South First that since the FIR was registered, Virupakshappa had gone incommunicado as his name is mentioned as the prime accused (A1) in the case and his arrest was imminent.
“If he is requesting anticipatory bail, we will certainly file objections to cancel his bail,” Lokayukta sources told South First.
Lokayukta sleuths are also contemplating issuing a notice under CrPC Section 41 (a) to the absconding MLA.
According to Lokayukta sources, they could proceed legally after three notices are issued, requesting the court to issue a warrant against the MLA so that he could be taken into custody for questioning.
After the FIR was registered on Thursday evening, Virupakshappa tendered his resignation on moral grounds on Friday after which he went incommunicado.
Congress levels further allegations
Meanwhile, the Congress stepped up its attack on the BJP government in Karnataka, which is expected to see Assembly elections in April-May.
Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar on Monday alleged that the ruling BJP, embarrassed by corruption charges, was exerting pressure on Income Tax and Lokayukta officials to catch those from Opposition parties in similar cases.
“They (BJP) are embarrassed. Therefore, pressure is being built on officers like those from the Income Tax, Lokayukta, and others to catch leaders from the Congress and the JD(S),” Shivakumar said.
Speaking to reporters in Belagavi, he added that officials had been asked to keep a strict vigil on those around him, Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah and its working presidents, among other leaders.
AICC general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala also took a swipe at the ruling BJP government by tweeting: “Day 4 of #MysoreSandalSoapBribeGate ! BJP MLA Madal Virupakshappa still missing. If Bommai Govt can’t even arrest an absconding MLA, how will it tackle law & order and criminals in #Karnataka ? Will disclose more info on bribe gate shortly. TIME FOR HM & CM to Quit ! [sic]”
Day 4 of #MysoreSandalSoapBribeGate !
BJP MLA Madal Virupakshappa still missing.
If Bommai Govt can’t even arrest an absconding MLA, how will it tackle law & order and criminals in #Karnataka ?
Will disclose more info on bribe gate shortly.
TIME FOR HM & CM to Quit !
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) March 6, 2023
Surjewala also asked whether Prashanth swallowed a piece of paper when he was being arrested on Thursday.
He speculated whether the names of a senior police officer and those of children of two politicians were written on the slip.
Surjewala also tweeted that a Look Out Notice should be issued against Home Minister Araga Jnanendra and Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai as they were also not available to take responsibility for their MLA’s transgressions.
“A government that can’t catch its own Bribe Gate MLA in 4 days, how will it fight criminals & goons? Complexity of BJP leadership is clear [sic],” Surjewala tweeted.
Government will not interfere: Minister
Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra told reporters in Tumakuru on Sunday that the government would not interfere in the case.
“I cannot say anything regarding the MLA Virupakshappa going incommunicado,” he said.
“The Lokayutka police officials are investigating the case in a transparent manner. They will decide when and how to arrest the MLA, and all his assets and cash are under investigation,” he added.
Inventory of recoveries
Soon after ₹40 lakh was confiscated from Prashanth and ₹1.62 crore from the MLA’s office on Crescent Road in Bengaluru, the Lokayukta sleuths continued with searches at the house of KSDL Managing Director Mahesh M, in Banashankari 1st stage, but they did not find any cash.
Simultaneously, searches were conducted at the MLA’s son’s house in Sanjay Nagar where ₹6.1 crore of unaccounted money was found.
Searches, simultaneously, were carried out at the house of MLA at his hometown in Channagiri in Davanagere on Friday.
The sleuths confiscated the entire sum of cash of ₹6.1 crore, along with 4.4 kg gold, 26 kg silver ornaments, two luxury cars and other investment details.
The sleuths have given the MLA and his family time to declare the source of their assets.
According to the Lokayukta officials, MLA Madal Virupakshappa has 232 acres of land in Chitradurga district, 60 acres in Shivamogga district, 64 acres in Davangere, and 52 acres in Vijayanagar.