The state government on Wednesday assured the Bombay High Court that it will consider dismissing five deputy commissioners and an assistant commissioner from the sales tax department.
The six officials have been placed under suspension in connection with a multi-crore sales tax refund scam.
On January 6, the sales tax department had lodged a first information report with the Palghar police in Thane district after its Special Investigation Team (SIT) raided an advocate’s office and seized 300 files that should have been in the office of assistant sales tax commissioner, NAR Shaikh.
They also found several blank but signed statutory forms and office seals. After investigations by the SIT, the department suspended senior deputy sales tax commissioner SP Pathak, deputy sales tax commissioners Shaikh, Vishnu Ade, Lalitkumar Chavardol and SB Kulkarni, and assistant sales tax commissioner CV Guthe.
Businessman Surinder Arora filed a public interest litigation (PIL) IN April seeking to transfer the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
In his PIL, filed through advocate Hitesh Dabhi, Arora contended that the investigation conducted by local police was “an eyewash” to shield higher-ups in the department and their network of dealers.
On Wednesday, public prosecutor Pandurang Pol told the court that the Finance department will consider revoking powers under Article 311 of the Constitution of India, which empowers the state to dismiss an employee without conducting a departmental inquiry.
When Pol said the director general of police had transferred the probe to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on April 8, the court was shocked to find the ACB had not yet collected the investigation papers from the Economic Offences Wing of the Thane Rural Police.
“We are surprised that the investigation is at a standstill for the last six months,” observed the division bench of Justice BH Marlapalle and Justice UD Salvi.
The court directed Hasan Gafoor, director general (ACB), to take charge of the investigation papers as soon as possible, and appoint a new investigation officer. The court also sought a progress report from the ACB investigation officer by October 29.