The Gujarat high court has upheld governor Dr Kamla Beniwal’s decision sanctioning prosecution of fisheries minister Parshottam Solanki for his alleged role in the Rs. 400 crore fisheries scam.
Thursday’s HC verdict comes as a setback for the Modi government, which had refused to provide sanction to prosecute Solanki, an important leader of numerically significant Koli community.
It was also a shot in the arm for Beniwal, with whom the Modi government has been at loggerheads since 2011, when she nominated a Lokayukta in Gujarat without the consent of the state government. The BJP had campaigned for her removal.
Beniwal had given her sanction to prosecute Solanki under the Prevention of Corruption Act after he allegedly awarded fishing contracts without inviting proper tenders, which caused a loss of around Rs. 400 crore to the state exchequer.
Solanki moved court in July, challenging the governor’s decision. He contended that the governor was required to act according to the aid and advice of the cabinet, which had ruled out his prosecution.
Justice RH Shukla, however, dismissed the petition, observing, “The order of the governor is legal and she has exercised her power which are not alien to her.” The fisheries scam came to fore in 2009, after a fisherman, Isaq Maradia, filed a petition in high court, seeking prosecution of Solanki.
The court had asked the state cabinet to place the case records before the governor. After the government forwarded its decision, on July 26, Beniwal overruled the cabinet and ordered the prosecution of Solanki.
Maradia lodged a complaint against the minister on August 3. The court directed the superintendent of police, Gandhinagar, to probe the matter and submit a report by October 6.