The Bombay high court on Wednesday rejected the Maharashtra government’s submission that said it had ordered an “open inquiry” into alleged irregularities in issuing tender for Kharghar toll plaza along the Sion-Panvel highway. The court instead directed the state to make a statement by Monday on whether or not it was willing to “register an FIR” in the case.
A bench of Justices Ranjit More and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi was hearing a PIL filed by activist Praveen Wategaonkar alleging that state’s rules were flouted and a certain contractor was favoured while issuing the tender for the widening of the highway, maintenance and toll collection at Khargar toll plaza.
Earlier last month, the court had directed the ACB to look into Wategaonkar’s allegations and file an affidavit in reply.
The state on Wednesday told the court that while the ACB had conducted a preliminary inquiry, the state now plans to conduct an open inquiry for which that they require six months.
The bench, however, refused to grant the additional six months to the state and questioned the need for an open inquiry when a preliminary one had already been conducted.
“What purpose is the open inquiry going to serve? You can find out all you need to after you register an FIR. There are alleged irregularities in a deal between the state and a private contractor. All you need to do is go through the contract papers to detect the irregularity. What is then causing such delay of over a year?” the bench asked.
“The impression the court gets from the state’s conduct is that the state is hand in glove with the guilty parties,” the bench said. “You are merely killing time and we feel that you will end up doing nothing unless we pass adverse orders,” it said.
The state government then argued that in proposing that the open inquiry follow the preliminary probe, it was merely following the state manual. However, the bench junked the argument saying that the “state’s manual was not above the law and the constitution.” HC is likely to take up the matter for further hearing on March 27.