CHHATTISGARH REVENUE Board Chairman P Raghavan has been chargesheeted by the State Bureau of Investigation and Economic Offences for cheating, misuse of office and criminally conspiring to benefit a Rajkot-based firm in the purchase of auto-rickshaws meant for distribution among jobless SC/ST youth while posted as Managing Director, MP Anusuchit Jaati Vitta Vikas Nigam (AJVVN).
He has, however, been let off on bail. Repeated attempts to contact Raghavan for his version proved fruitless as every time his mobile was answered by a lady who said that he “was not at home”.
After a four-year long investigation the Bureau on Friday charged Raghavan, alongwith then Development Officer OP Gupta, under sections 420, 120 (b), 201 and 204 of the Indian Penal Code and 13 (1) (d) and 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
EOW also booked Jayantibhai Patel and Mahendrabhai Patel, managing director and director respectively of M/s Atul Auto Ltd-the firm that reportedly profited from Raghavan’s largesse-for conspiracy and fraud.
After the EOW submitted a challan before the Additional Sessions Judge and Sessions Judge, Bhopal, Raghavan, appearing in person, filed a bail plea which was granted by the court.
In its chargesheet the EOW alleged that Raghavan, while posted as AJVVN MD, misused his official position to approve purchase of 32 six-seater and 11 loading auto-rickshaws at rates higher than the prevailing market prices so as to benefit M/s Atul Auto, Rajkot to the tune of Rs 12,31,630.
The IAS official is also indicted for authorising commission payments to the agent even though the purchase order was placed directly with the manufacturer. In a particularly damning para the EOW accuses Raghavan, in connivance with Gupta, of purloining the office copy of the purchase order and attempting to erase the letter number from despatch records with a whitener.
It may be noted that the AJVVN had invited quotations for the purchase of 43 autos for use in Indore and Ujjain to be distributed at subsidised rates to unemployed SC youth under the State government’s Pratishtha scheme.
Three firms, M/s scooter India Ltd, M/s Shanku Auto and M,/s Atul Auto responded. The last named, quoted Rs 1.24 lakh for its Khushboo Diesel Raod Master (six-seater), Rs 1.33 lakh for the Khushboo Diesel Mark II and Rs 1.33 lakh for the Khushboo Diesel pick up van (inclusive of all taxes) in a letter dated December 12, 1998 and this offer was approved by the body.
On March 1, 1999, however, the firm, in a missive (AL/98-99/380) addressed to Raghavan declared that it would be unable to supply the autos at the agreed upon rate as the hike in Central excise and customs duties had necessitated the hiking of prices of loading and passenger autos by Rs 5,000 per unit .
Rebutting this assertion EOW charged that the actual hike in duties for the two was Rs 382 and Rs 1,599 respectively. As per this Raghavan was instrumental in getting M/s Atul Auto an additional (11 x 4618) Rs 50,798 for the loading and (32x1599) Rs 1,08,832 for the passenger vehicles making a total of Rs 1,59,730.
Similarly, as the Nigam had placed the order for the autos directly with the manufacturer it was not required to pay any percentage but despite this AJVVN shelled out Rs 5,000 in commission for each of the 43 units.
Furthermore, the autos were purchased not from Atul Auto’s authorised agent in Indore but from M/s Khushboo auto Private Limited even though it was charging Rs 19,000 and Rs 15,000 more for the passenger and loading autos respectively as compared to the local dealer, the chargesheet pointed out.
“During the course of investigations it became clear that both Raghavan and OP Gupta misused their positionand entered into a criminal conspiracy to fraudulently benefit M/s Atul Auto Ltd and later attempted to cover their misdeeds by removing the office copy of the sale order and attempting to erase despatch records”, summed up the EOW challan.