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Irrigation scam in Maharashtra: HC strikes down nod to prosecute officer

The Bombay high court last week struck down sanction to prosecute Chandan Jibhkate, the then senior divisional accounts officer of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), in five irrigation scam cases
By Kanchan Chaudhari, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 01:03 AM IST

The Bombay high court last week struck down sanction to prosecute Chandan Jibhkate, the then senior divisional accounts officer of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), in five irrigation scam cases.

Jibhkate had moved high court challenging five separate orders passed by Accountant General (Accounts and Entitlement) II, Nagpur, on January 17, 2019, granting sanction to prosecute him in all the five cases registered against him in connection with irrigation scam cases involving VIDC projects.

As the senior divisional accounts officer, the 63-year-old was entrusted with the task of clearing bills submitted by VIDC engineers and officers during the period when estimates prepared for several irrigation projects were allegedly inflated manifold and huge government funds were misappropriated in connivance with the contractors.

It was argued on his behalf that sanction to prosecute him was denied by the competent authority in three cases on December 14, 2018 and in remaining two cases on December 7, 2018 and and January 9, 2019, respectively.

A week later the competent authority reviewed all earlier orders and granted sanction when there was no fresh material, warranting reconsideration of the earlier decisions, advocate Rajnish Vyas, who represented Jibhkate, had submitted. Vyas added that such an exercise was not permissible under the law and referred to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Nishant Sareen’s case on the point.

As a matter of fact, the bench added, it was nobody’s case that after first refusal of sanction further investigation was carried out and that it resulted into discovery of any fresh material that required fresh consideration by the competent authority, the bench added.

“All these orders manifestly show absence of consideration of any fresh material or evidence discovered after the earlier orders were passed and as such, would be the orders adversely hit by the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Nishant Sareen,” said HC.

In Nishant Sareen’s case, the Supreme Court has held that whenever there is a refusal to grant sanction, it would not be open to the competent authority to review such an order on same material because power of review conferred upon the authority is not unbridled and unrestricted and putting of some fetters on its power of review is essential to accord finality to such an exercise.

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