In a setback to the CBI, the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways has refused to grant necessary sanction to probe a senior National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) official in connection with a graft case in which two of its officials were arrested.
Official sources said the Ministry headed by Kamal Nath has refused to give sanction to initiate inquiry against S I Patel, Member (Projects) in the NHAI.
Sources said the CBI had sought sanction as part of its probe into the alleged irregularities in the award of contract in the 120-km Nagpur-Betul Highway (NH 69) to a private firm -Oriental Structural Engineers Pvt Ltd (OSEPL).
Following complaints, the CBI had investigated the matter and arrested a Chief General Manager and General Manager of the NHAI and two top OSEPL bosses, including its managing director early this year.
The CBI, it is learnt, has now written to Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar to transfer Patel.
Incidentally, the CBI is yet to file an FIR in the case but sources said Patel's statement was "very important" and hence they had sent repeated reminded to the Ministry, which has now refused sanction.
When contacted, Chairman NHAI Brijeshwar Singh said he was not aware of the final decision on the outcome of CBI's request for sanction.
"The Ministry had asked our comments and we had stated the factual position. I am not aware of the nature of evidence with the CBI. The contract was awarded before the CBI raid and normally we don't withhold any project pending inquiry. Projects go on," he said.
Sources in NHAI said the concerned official was on leave even before the CBI conducted raids.