The special investigation team of the city police arrested three engineers, who worked for contractors allegedly involved in the Rs352-crore road work scam, on Tuesday, bringing the number of arrests in the case to 22.
Taking note of mayor Snehal Ambekar’s letter, civic chief Ajoy Mehta ordered inspection of 14 roads in the island city, 11 in the western suburbs and nine in the eastern suburbs last year. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) found the quality of work to be shoddy, after which the police started an investigation.
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The arrested engineers — Dattatray Sudan Dhas, 26, Ashish Ramnath Jaiswal, 27, and Rishikesh Gajanan Shinde, 23 — have been remanded in police custody for three days.
“The engineers were responsible for the quality of the roads. They got auditors to clear the work and then got the bill sanctioned,” said a police officer, who did not wish to be named.
The defence advocates, including Mahesh Jethmalani, Pranav Badheka, Niranjan Mundargi, Rizwan Merchant, objected to the custody on grounds the police failed to follow the statutory procedure. The advocates claimed their clients had no role in the scam and they were only employees of the firm.
“The scam isn’t possible without the involvement of BMC officials. We will arrest the contractors once we get evidence against them,” said a senior officer.
No action has been taken against the contractors, even though their employees have been arrested. The role of the civic officials, too, is yet to be investigated. According to civic authorities, the process of blacklisting six contractors and two third-party auditors is on and they have also assisted the police probe. Fifteen days ago, the police questioned the chief engineer and other officials of the roads department, to get details on how the tenders are issued and contractors are appointed. Their statement may help nail civic officials involved in the scam, said sources.
Sanjay Deshmukh, additional municipal commissioner, said the arrests were a result of coordination between the civic officials and police department.
“We haven’t taken action, as we do not want to create an uproar. We hope the police will not spare anyone. The role of the vigilance department officials and road department engineers, too, will be investigated,” said a senior BMC official.