Nagpur: The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Thursday rapped the Maharashtra government for its failure to probe former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s role in the multi-crore irrigation scam since his name first surfaced three years ago. The court directed the state to clear its position in two weeks.
Censuring the state for not questioning the NCP stalwart, despite a slew of allegations against him, a division bench comprising justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and justice Swapna Joshi asked the government pleader to file a comprehensive affidavit on the status of enquiry against Pawar and former MLC Sandeep Bajoriya (NCP). The court also sought information on officers of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) who are probing the mega scam.
The critical comments came while hearing a PIL by Atul Jagtap, through counsel Shridhar Purohit, alleging that in four irrigation projects the contracts were awarded to Bajoriya Construction Company headed by Sandeep Bajoriya from Yavatmal at the behest of Pawar, who headed the irrigation department during the Congress-NCP regime.
Earlier, Purohit pointed out that the government had assured to conduct an open ACB enquiry into all irrigation projects. The assurance was given by then advocate general Sunil Manohar during the hearing of PIL filed by NGO Janmanch alleging Rs70,000 crore scam in various projects. The government had specifically named three former ministers, including Sunil Tatkare (water resources) and Chhagan Bhujbal (public works department) besides Pawar, he said.
He added even in the current PIL, there were specific allegations against Pawar, that he helped Bajoriya in bagging the contracts for all four projects despite the company not being qualified to file a tender, and submitting bogus experience certificates. Though the former minister is directly named as one of the respondents, neither ACB nor police had made any efforts to question him, Purohit said.
Purohit further informed that ACB had filed about four affidavits in equal number of PILs regarding irregularities in irrigation projects — Jigaon in Buldhana, Lower Pedhi in Amravati, Raigad Barrage near Chandur Railway and Waghadi in Yavatmal. But the bureau failed to come up with any concrete findings on the roles of respondents, particularly of Pawar, in any of its affidavits. He charged the ACB was trying to mislead the court by mentioning in its affidavits that enquiry was underway. He said the government was depending on inspection of audit reports and not really putting serious efforts into probe the scam.
Additional government pleader Anand Fulzele then raised objection to the petitioner’s charges against the ACB, stating that its officers couldn’t be named as they were not added as respondents. Rejecting the objection, the judges made it clear that there was no need to add ACB as a party as it directly comes under the government, which already is a respondent.
Earlier, the government submitted tender documents of all four projects before the court. The petitioner, however, pointed out that there was no mention of mobilization advance given to the contractor firm, and whether finance department’s nod was taken before approving the revised administrative costs.