Goa lokayukta accuses govt of paying lip-service to eradication of corruption
The Goa lokayukta has in a stinging letter to the governor questioned the very need for its existence as an institution if its recommendations are regularly rejected by the government “given the usual attitude of protecting the privileged and the powerful.”
Lokayukta Justice PK Misra wrote the letter to Governor Satyapal Malik after the state government rejected his recommendations to prosecute former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar and two other senior officials for having hurriedly cleared Goa’s mining renewals, including 31 in a single day.
“The posterity may rightly question as to why [the] public exchequer should be depleted by having Institutions like the Lokayukta or Human Rights Commission if their reports are to be routinely rejected without bestowing the attention their reports deserve,” Misra said in his letter.
The Goa government had in an earlier communication to the lokayukta declined to prosecute Parsekar and the two officers indicted for having allegedly renewed 88 mining leases “with malafide intention”.
The lease renewals were struck down by the Supreme Court and petitioner Goa Foundation had filed a complaint with the lokayukta alleging corruption in the lease renewals.
The Goa lokayukta conducted an inquiry and ruled that the complaint had been substantiated and recommended that Parsekar and Prasanna Acharya, the then director of mines, and mines secretary PK Sain be asked to demit office while also directing that an FIR be registered against them.
“The hasty renewal of 31 mining leases on January 12th 2015, where the file suddenly surfaced before the (Mines) Director, without the files having been placed before him by any preceding note, and recommendations were made without waiting for a mandatory report from [the] IBM (Indian Bureau of Mines) and without waiting for report relating to [the] violation of rule 37 was definitely an abuse of position by the Director,” Misra wrote in the letter.
“The other two actors in this sordid drama clearly connived with the Director and cleared all such 31 files in a single day, the day on which the ordinance was issued. If the above acts were not ‘abuse of position’ then God only knows the meaning of such expression and God alone can save the State,” he said.
“No amount of legalese can mask the stark reality that the leaseholders received a windfall on account of abuse of position by respondents 1 to 3 by directing renewal of 31 leases on a single day, the day the ordinance came into force,” the letter reads.
In January this year, the lokayukta in his verdict on a complaint filed by the Goa Foundation found that the officials “have abused their official position thereby causing loss to the entire State of Goa and benefitting only a few mining leaseholders.”
The Goa Foundation had alleged that the act of the state government to renew the leases was an act of corruption.
The Goa government renewed 56 mining leases between January 5, 2015, and January 12, 2015, and 31 of which were renewed in a single day—January 12, 2015, the day the Mines and Minerals Development Ordinance, 2015, came into effect.
The ordinance made it mandatory that leases will have to be granted through a process of auction, and the lokayukta observed the hurry was obviously to avoid the process of an auction.
“If a single, even remote explanation by any of the three respondents as to why and how 31 files which were gathering Covid virus were suddenly resurrected on 12th January 2015, notes were prepared without any relation to any of the previous notes in the concerned files, and approved without bothering to examine the question of compliance and if there were other violations and if stamp duty had been paid, were finalized on the very same day can be pointed out, this institution shall in exercise of its power to review recall the entire report suo motu and instead recommend for conferring appropriate honour on the three respondents preferably on the upcoming Independence Day for the remarkable efficiency shown by the three respondents on 12.1.2015,” the Lokayukta said.
Parsekar denied wrongdoing and claimed he acted on the basis of a resolution of the state cabinet and that he should not be singled out for prosecution since it was the collective responsibility of the cabinet.
Acharya has said he will explore legal options.