ACB clean chit to Ajit Pawar once again in Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam
In affidavits filed on Thursday with the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, the Maharashtra Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) reiterated its ‘clean chit’ granted to former Maharashtra deputy chief minister and Water Resources Minister Ajit Pawar in the alleged Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam. The affidavits – filed while the state Assembly is in session and a cabinet expansion is on the cards – assert that no criminal liability could be found against the NCP leader.
Hindustan Times had broken the story on December 6 about the affidavits filed by the SP of the Nagpur and Amravati division.
The NCP is part of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi, a three-party coalition government in Maharashtra, along with the Shiv Sena and the Congress.
In the affidavits, ACB director general Parambir Singh endorsed the earlier clean chit filed by the ACB Superintendent of Police (SP) of Nagpur and Amravati division on November 27, and also confirmed the content. “The content of the affidavits were carefully examined by me and fully confirmed,” Singh said on Friday. The ACB also strongly opposed handing over of the irrigation scam probe to the Enforcement Department or CBI as demanded by petitioner Atul Jagtap, activist and convenor of the Jan Manch, a local NGO.
On November 26, 2018, the then ACB chief and current Mumbai police commissioner Sanjay Barve had filed an affidavit in the same court that the alleged multi-crore irrigation scam had revealed major lapses on Pawar’s part and by other government officials.
The ACB DG on Friday claimed that the latest affidavits were based on “a painstaking investigation conducted by two special investigation teams and after questioning Pawar.” Based on evidence and a reply filed by Pawar, the ACB concluded that apart from cost updates and mobilization advance to contractors, no fault could be found with Pawar.
The ACB DG also claimed that his predecessor had overlooked the reply filed by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) in March 2018. This reply, he said, had rejected the involvement of Ajit Pawar. Barve’s affidavit had pointed the needle of suspicion at Pawar by mentioning that norms were tweaked and tenders were manipulated. “Procedures were bypassed, pecuniary benefits were passed on, sub-standard work allowed leading to a drain upon the public exchequer,” the affidavit read.
The ACB had also charged Pawar and VIDC top officials with “trying to hide behind the framework of rules” in this “weird case of conspiracy,” in which VIDC officers “have conspired to cheat the government and defraud the public exchequer,” while acting in “an orchestrated manner.”
The High Court is scheduled to hear the matter on January 15.