Bombay HC raps ACB Thane police for delay in FIR against contractor
The Bombay high court (HC) on Wednesday pulled up the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) unit of Thane Police for not registering a first information report (FIR) based on a complaint lodged against a contractor who had allegedly cheated the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) to the tune of ₹4.54 crore by under-reporting the advertisement revenue collected by him on the 470 bus stops in Thane city since 2013. A complaint was lodged in October 2018 against the contractor with the ACB, but as no action was taken, the public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the HC in 2019.
In December 2019, the court had granted three-months to the ACB to complete its probe and register the FIR, however, the same was not done. After the court rapped it, the ACB assured that it would complete proceedings related to the complaint and register the FIR within one week.
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni, while hearing the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Pravin Wategaonkar, was informed that the contractor appointed by the TMC in 2013 for signboard management on the 470 bus-stops in Thane city, had been appointed based on false financial eligibility details. The PIL further stated that the contractor had defaulted in paying the advertising fees to the TMC since the contract began, hence the civic body had issued a demand notice of ₹27.27 crores in 2018.
In light of these submissions, the PIL sought to register an FIR against the contractor for misleading the TMC while securing the contract and also siphoning public money. Wategaonkar explained that though the short payment was only ₹4.54 crore, as per the rules, TMC could recover the amount with a five times penalty. Coupled with interest the amount came to ₹27.27 crore and hence the TMC issued the demand notice of the said amount in 2018.
After hearing the submissions, the bench sought to know from the ACB as to why it had not complied with the December 2019 order to which chief public prosecutor Deepak Thakare responded that a preliminary report of its inquiry into the allegations had been prepared but the final report was delayed due to the pandemic and hence it could not be completed by March 30, 2020. The HC further stated that as per the stipulation of a Supreme Court judgement the inquiry should be completed within a week and the FIR should be registered soon thereafter and hence the ACB should give an undertaking accordingly.
Thakare then assured the court and said that the ACB was giving the undertaking to complete the probe and file the FIR within one week, which was accepted by the HC. Hearing of the PIL has been posted after two weeks.