There could be trouble brewing for senior NCP leaders and former water resources ministers Sunil Tatkare and Ajit Pawar ahead of the monsoon session of the state legislature. The ministers have been at the centre of the multi-crore irrigation scam.
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court on Thursday asked the state government to file an affidavit on the status of the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) probe against both the former ministers within two weeks, along with the status of investigation into all the projects. The court’s verbal directives may spur the government and the investigation agencies that have made slow progress in the probe.
The directives came in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed once again by NGO Jan Manch this year, asking for the probe to be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Jan Manch had originally filed the PIL in connection with the irrigation scam, pointing to arbitrary cost escalations, and irregularities in clearing irrigation projects in Vidarbha during the tenure of Pawar. Jan Manch had withdrawn the petition in December 2014 after the then advocate-general Sunil Manohar said chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had given a go ahead for an open inquiry against Tatkare, Pawar and former Public Works minister Chhagan Bhujbal.
While Bhujbal is currently behind bars in a money laundering case pertaining to the Maharashtra Sadan redevelopment, the irrigation scam has barely made any progress. While four FIRs have been lodged in the scam, no charge sheet has been filed in any case so far.
“The state government had made a statement in court one-and-a-half years ago about an open inquiry against Pawar and Tatkare,” said Anil Kilor of Jan Manch. “We asked the court for a statement on the status of the investigation to be made available by the government. The court should not be misled. We have submitted documents that show irregularities and violations but there has been no action so far.”