Former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and one of his relatives figure in an anti-corruption bureau (ACB) charge sheet on a multi-crore mining scam in which a top bureaucrat and seven others are in jail.
While they have not been named as accused, the charge sheet filed in an Udaipur court on Thursday contains transcripts of a tapped phone conversation in which the IAS officer, Ashok Singhvi, purportedly tells another accused that Gehlot’s relative was employed by a mining baron to win favours from the political class.
The documents, running into about 3,000 pages, held Singhvi, three mines officials and four others guilty of running a kickbacks cartel where agreements were cancelled and mining operations stopped to extort money from owners.
The state, which accounts for more than nine per cent of the country’s mineral output, has around 33,000 operational mines which employ an estimated two million people.
However, rampant illegal mining – allegedly in connivance with department officials– leads to losses of crores of rupees to the government every year.
Gehlot was chief minister in 2013 when he faced charges of allotting sandstone mines to his relatives in the state’s western region at throwaway rates. The BJP had accused him of allotting 19 out of 37 mines to his relatives after which the mines allocation was scrapped.
The ACB arrested Sanjay Sethi, an associate of now-suspended principal secretary ( mines) Singhvi, on September 16 when the alleged tout was receiving Rs 2.5 crore from a person in Udaipur reportedly at the behest of the bureaucrat to reopen some mines. Singhvi was arrested the next day.
Sources say the BJP- led Rajasthan government is likely to introduce online auctioning of mines very soon to bring in transparency in a cash-rich sector which has seen some of the biggest scams in the state in recent times.
The ACB charge sheet contains details of phone conversations recorded between January 1 and September 16 among the accused, revealing that Singhvi often spoke to Sethi from a mobile and even his official landline phone.
Singhvi, the documents say, procured a cellphone number in the name of the wife of one of his subordinates. This number was used specifically “to interact with the other accused in the scam”.
The bureau has listed 73 witnesses, including mines owners as well as staff in Singhvi’s office and the mines department.
The accused have been booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 and sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 409 (criminal breach of trust) of the IPC.