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“There is something hidden in this matter”: Karnataka HC stays arrest of BS Yediyurappa in POCSO case, questions the need to arrest after he appeared for questioning

The court noted that Yediyurappa had appeared for questioning responding to an earlier summon, therefore he should be granted the requested time for the next questioning as he is in Delhi.

The arrest of the former Karnataka chief minister and BJP leader BS Yediyurappa, was stayed by the Karnataka High Court on 14th June, in relation to a case brought against him under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act). The intention to arrest him was called into question by Justice S Krishna Dixit who also noted that there was “something hidden” in the case. The court noted that Yediyurappa had appeared for questioning responding to an earlier summon, therefore he should be granted the requested time for the next questioning as he is in Delhi.

The court noted that he is a former CM, not an ordinary person, and there is no possibility of him fleeing the country. The state’s claim that the former chief minister had flown to Delhi, arguing prior party engagements, hours after receiving a notice on 11th June to appear before the investigating officer was also not deemed credible by the court.

Advocate General (AG) Shashi Kiran Shetty stated, “(Plane) ticket was booked only after notice was issued to him.” However, the court noted that Yediyurappa was not likely to run away, having served as chief minister before. The court further observed that he had responded to the notification dated 11th June by saying that he would be meeting with the investigating officer on 17th June.

The court asserted, “He is not some Tom, Dick or Harry. He is a former chief minister of the state. Is it your case he will flee the country? What can he do by leaving to Delhi from Bangalore.” Ultimately, the single-judge bench ruled that the former chief minister should not be subjected to coercion, especially because he had offered in writing to appear before the investigating officer on 17th June.

The court mentioned, “We cannot immediately jump to the conclusion that a case is made for arrest and detention for custodial interrogation of the petitioner who has been former chief minister of state and (is of advanced age) and has ailments natural to that age. Proceedings for arrest and detention of petitioner are put on hold till the next date of hearing.” Nonetheless, the court stressed that Yediyurappa must present himself before the jurisdictional police for investigation on 17th June.

The high court’s ruling follows the issuance of a non-bailable warrant for Yediyurappa by a Bengaluru court on Thursday, which was related to a case involving an alleged sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl when she went to his house with her mother to ask for assistance. Earlier today, Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara said that police will bring Yediyurappa from Delhi to Karnataka to execute the arrest warrant.

On 14th March, the alleged victim’s 54-year-old mother (the complainant) reported the incident to the inspector of the Sadashivanagar police station. She alleged that Yediyurappa had physically taken the minor girl into a room and then harassed her sexually behind closed doors.

The complainant further stated that Yediyurappa reportedly attempted to downplay the situation by giving money when he was confronted about his action. The girl’s brother filed a case in court against the four-time former chief minister of Karnataka. On suspicion of sexual harassment of a juvenile, the police filed a first information report (FIR) in accordance with sections 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act and 354(A) of the Indian Penal Code.

However, the high court questioned the case’s validity during the hearing. Advocate CV Nagesh, representing Yediyurappa, contended that the mother of the girl who submitted the complaint has a history of submitting baseless petitions. The complainant’s reliability may need to be investigated, the court said in response. Additionally, the complainant’s death from illness on 26th May has been reported to the court. The court also voiced reservations with the process by which Yediyurappa’s arrest warrant was obtained, and expressed doubt that there is something hidden in the matter.

Notably, the court highlighted, “The way things have happened, there is doubt that there is something hidden in this matter,” to which the AG answered, “Nothing hidden, milord.” The court then asked, “Here is an ex-Chief Minister. He scrupulously complied with first notice. Then, you issue one more notice, it is your power, privilege and authority. And he said I will come on 17th. It is not his case he (Yediyurappa) will never come back to Karnataka! He said he is coming back in writing – still you want to arrest him? If an ex-Chief Minister is treated that way, I am just wildly thinking, what will happen to layman?” 

The state was asked to submit a statement of objections by the court, which then issued notice in the case. Two related cases were being heard by the court, one of which was Yediyurappa’s request for anticipatory bail. He submitted a second plea in which he requests that the POCSO case against him be dismissed. Notably, the former chief minister was the subject of an arrest order issued yesterday by NM Ramesh, the Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge (Fast Track Special Court-I).

Sandeep C Patil, Yediyurappa’s lawyer conveyed, “We had approached the High Court. We had brought the petition challenging the malafide action on the part of the investigating agencies. The court was today of the opinion that since Yediyurappa, being a former chief minister, keeping in mind his age and also his conduct of having taken part in the investigation, this is not a case where the investigator should have gone to court and got a warrant,” in front of the media.

He added, “There should not be any kind of arrest as he is cooperating. So therefore any such warrant or otherwise is put on hold. And any course steps also the investigator cannot take from now on. He has already written a letter, communicating that I am going to appear on 17th June. In all probability, he will appear on the 17th of June.” According to a statement from his office, Yediyurappa had asked for anticipatory bail at a special court, the People Representative Court, requesting protection from arrest in connection with the POCSO statute filed against him.

Meanwhile, the BJP has alleged a conspiracy by the Congress in the case to divert attention from a corruption case involving Minister B Nagendra. BJP MLA Mahesh Tenginkai said, “It looks like a part of a conspiracy by Congress but BS Yediyurappa will come out clean from this case”

BJP Karnataka yesterday alleged that Karnakata Congress is trying to arrest Yediyurappa “based on a complaint from a mentally unstable woman.” They posted on X that Congress is doing this due to its humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.

They added that Congress leader and former home minister G Parameshwara had himself stated that the “complaint from the mentally unstable woman was malicious and without merit.” BJP added that the woman had filed 53 cases against various people, including her own children and her husband.

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