The Bombay high court on Wednesday dismissed two public interest litigations seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged large-scale irregularities in awarding contracts for irrigation projects in Maharashtra.
The division bench of justice SC Dharmadhikari and justice SB Shukre refused to entertain the PILs filed by Thane resident Pravin Wategaonkar and former journalist Ketan Tirodkar, on the grounds that these were non-maintainable. The judges noted that the petitioners had not tried to approach any competent investigating agency or a court of competent jurisdiction before moving the high court. “If the petitioners have adequate and equally effacious remedies available to them, then their PILs cannot be entertained,” the judges observed.
The bench has, however, left the issues raised in the PILs open to alternate remedies. The activists can now approach a competent investigating agency such as the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and subsequently the special ACB court if the agency declines to register an FIR on the basis of their complaints.
In his PIL, Wategaonkar pointed out irregularities in irrigation projects undertaken by the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC) and sought a CBI probe into the same. Tirodkar raised issues about irrigation projects in Vidarbha region. Both petitioners had contended that there were large scale irregularities in awarding contracts of irrigation projects and submitted that a CBI investigation was necessary in view of the huge scope of the purported scam.
Advocate general Darius Khambata and senior advocate Ravi Kadam, who represented the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation, took preliminary objections to the PILs, contending they were not maintainable in view of the fact that though alternate effacious remedies were available to the petitioners they did not espouse those and directly approached the high court.
Khambata also pointed out that the state government has set up a two-member committee headed by water expert Madhavrao Chitale for enquiring into wide ranging aspects related to irrigation projects throughout Maharashtra and there was no reason to presume that the committee will not take note of irregularities in awarding contracts, if any.
The bench accepted his contentions and dismissed the PILs on the ground of being not maintainable.