HC snubs Modi govt, guv to decide on minister probe
A week after the state government refused to sanction prosecution of minister Purushottam Solanki in an alleged R400 crore fishing contracts scam, the Gujarat high court on Thursday ruled governor Kamla Beniwal would have the final say.india Updated: Jul 07, 2012 01:12 IST
A week after the state government refused to sanction prosecution of minister Purushottam Solanki in an alleged Rs 400 crore fishing contracts scam, the Gujarat high court on Thursday ruled governor Kamla Beniwal would have the final say.
Solanki, the minister of state for fisheries, is from the Koli community, which forms around 20% of the state’s population. He wields considerable influence in at least a dozen assembly seats in Saurashtra.
Trouble for Solanki in the run-up to the assembly elections due in December could worry chief minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.
The court directed the government to place all relevant papers before Beniwal, who would decide in two weeks if Solanki should be prosecuted.
The court, however, rejected fisherman Ishaq Maradia’s contempt plea against chief minister Narendra Modi and his council of ministers for rejecting, on June 29, sanction to prosecute Solanki without leaving the decision to the governor.
A division bench of justice Jayant Patel and justice CL Soni held that “by not sanctioning the prosecution, the cabinet did decide on the matter”.
Maradia had moved the HC in 2009 over the scam and accused Solanki of having given away fishing contracts for 58 reservoirs in the state, each spread over at least 200 hectares (2 sq km), at rates below the price fixed in previous contract.
According to Maradia, contracts worth Rs 40 crore per annum were awarded for Rs 2.36 crore. The contracts were renewed at such low rates for 10 years, he alleged.
Solanki, popularly addressed by supporters as “Bhai”, divides his time between Gujarat and Bombay, where he is engaged in construction business.
He was indicted by the Justice Srikrishna Commission on charges of having participated in the 1993 Mumbai riots. His younger brother, Hira Solanki, is also a BJP MLA in Gujarat.