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Lokayukta asks for govt response after BJP MP’s allegations of graft

Updated on Jul 30, 2022 05:30 AM IST

The education portfolio is looked after by deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia.

File photo of Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia.
ByAlok KN Mishra, New Delhi

Delhi Lokayukta justice Harish Chandra Mishra on Friday said he had received a complaint from the BJP’s North-East Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari alleging “serious financial irregularities” into the construction of classrooms in state government schools and asked the city’s chief secretary to get a response from the “appropriate department” of the Delhi government in the issue, in what is likely to be the latest flashpoint between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the elected Aam Aadmi Party government in the Capital. The Delhi government, in a statement, called the complaint “baseless and false”.

The education portfolio is looked after by deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia.

In an order issued on Friday, justice Mishra said the complainant’s allegations concerned the construction of additional classrooms in schools run by the state education department in three zones.

“After hearing the counsel for the complainant, I feel it appropriate to get a response from the government side also on the complaint, in order to take a decision with regard to proceeding any further in the matter. Let a copy of the complaint as well as additional affidavits along with their annexures be sent to the chief secretary of Delhi, who shall get the response to the allegations from the appropriate department of the GNCT of Delhi, if necessary, upon getting appropriate enquiry,” said the order, a copy of which HT has seen.

The state government said it was confident of being handed a clean chit in the matter.

“The Delhi government welcomes the Lokayukta’s order seeking our response on the issue. Earlier too, the ACB, Delhi Police, CBI, ED, have investigated our projects. We have always come out with a clean chit. The complaint furnished to the Lokayukta is completely baseless and false, we are confident that we’ll come out clean this time too,” Delhi government said in a statement.

To be sure, Tiwari filed the complaint in July 2019. However, the delay, officials said was likely because the state Lokayukta post was vacant between December 2020 and March this year.

Delhi chief secretary Naresh Kumar did not respond to requests for comment.

“For classrooms that could have been built at 5 lakh each, the Delhi government spent 25-28 lakh on constructing each additional classroom in Delhi government schools. When I, along with Parvesh Sahib Singh (the BJP MP from West Delhi) and others raised objections and demanded an investigation into it, [Delhi deputy chief minister] Manish Sisodia filed a defamation case against us,” Manoj Tiwari said in a statement.

The case will be heard on October 20 this year, the Lokayukta’s order said.

“It is expected that by the next date, the response/report of the concerned department of the GNCT of Delhi shall be filed, with advance copy, at least one week prior to the next date, to the counsel for the complainant. It is further expected that some state counsel from the GNCT of Delhi, fully versed with the matter, shall assist this Forum on the basis of the available materials and the outcome of the enquiry, if any.”

Before lodging a complaint with the Lokayukta on July 4, 2019, Tiwari in accused the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi of 2,000 crore corruption in the construction of classrooms and claimed that each classroom was built for 25 lakh while a classroom can be constructed with a budget of 3-5 lakh.

The state government had then refuted the charges and Manish Sisodia had filed a criminal defamation case against Tiwari, which was later stayed by the Delhi high court.

Sisodia had then said the Delhi government built classes with facilities like rainwater harvesting systems, furniture, ceiling fans, lights, etc, which added to the total cost.

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