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No progress in probe on Hazare, politicians

To get to the bottom of the corruption and counter-corruption charges against civil activist Anna Hazare and four politicians, in 2006, the Congress-led government appointed a three-member legal committee. Dharmendra Jore reports.

mumbai Updated: Aug 16, 2011 00:25 IST
Dharmendra Jore

To get to the bottom of the corruption and counter-corruption charges against civil activist Anna Hazare and four politicians, in 2006, the Congress-led government appointed a three-member legal committee. Five years later, this panel has made no headway.

The committee comprised state advocate general Ravindra Kadam, senior counsel VR Manohar and senior advocate Atul Setalvad. While Setalvad died last year, Manohar does not practise law because of old age; Kadam is still the advocate general.

Vilasrao Deshmukh, then chief minister, appointed the panel after Hazare accused the state government of shielding four Congress ministers indicted by the Justice PB Sawant Commission, which had investigated Hazare’s charges of corruption against the ministers as well as Suresh Jain’s corruption allegations against Hazare.

Jain is still fighting Hazare in several courts, and last week in one such case Hazare offered his unconditional apology to Bombay high court for making unwarranted comments against judiciary.

The Sawant Commission passed tough remarks against Dr Padamsinh Patil, who represents the Nationalist Congress Party in Lok Sabha, Jain who is now a Shiv Sena MLA, Nawab Malik who is now an NCP MLA and Hazare himself.

The ministers had to quit in view of the Sawant Commission’s report.

However, in December 2005, a task force – led by ex-bureaucrat DM Sukhtankar – appointed to recommend action exonerated all but Dr Patil. Sukhtankar said no legal action was possible against the others, but recommended action against ex-irrigation minister Dr Padamsinh Patil, including the filing of a criminal conspiracy case for his involvement in the sugar export scam.

Sukhtankar also recommended that Hazare’s trust be under periodic surveillance as the Sawant Commission had found irregularities during audit. He accused Hazare of having spent trust money on his birthday celebrations.

When Hazare called the Sukhtankar report as eyewash and went on hunger strike, the government had appointed a legal panel to study both the Sawant Commission and Sukhtankar committee reports and recommend action.

Kadam refused to comment, citing official secrecy. When asked whether Hazare’s trust were under surveillance, cooperative commissioner MS Chaudhari said he would have to check with his office on Tuesday. “I took over recently so I will have to verify the details before commenting,” he said.