Irrigation scam: Bombay HC gets government to speed up probe, wants progress report in a week
Forcing investigating agencies to speed up the probe into the Maharashtra irrigation scam allegations, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court on Thursday asked the Maharashtra anti-corruption bureau to submit all documents and a progress report into the ₹70,000-crore scam within a week. This unexpected move may spell more trouble for former deputy chief minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar, and former water resources minister Sunil Tatkare, whose alleged involvement in the scam are under the scanner .
Slamming the state government, a division bench of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice ZA Haq made it clear that subject to its satisfaction, it would decide the future course of action in the case, including the
appointment of two former HC judges to monitor the special investigation teams’ (SITs) probe. During a hearing earlier this month, the court had gave the government and petitioners’ counsels till July 12 to suggest names of two retired HC judges who will monitor the investigation.
The petitioners’ counsel, Shridhar Purohit, suggested the names of former chief justice of the Calcutta high court JN Patel and former judge RC Chavan.
On Thursday, responding to a public interest litigation filed by NGO Jan Manch, the court made it clear it would appoint two retired judges to whom the SIT would report, either daily or every week, to ensure those involved are brought to justice.
During the last hearing, the court had also put each member of the SIT on notice and asked them to file individual affidavits regarding the progress in the case, on record. However, the affidavits filed hardly indicated any progress, after which the court decided not to give the SITs or the government any more leeway, and instead, mooted a court-monitored probe in which periodic progress is ensured along with accountability of investigating machinery.
Continuing its tough stance against the irrigation scam and perpetrators who siphoned public money, the high court posed some tough questions to the state on Thursday about the failure in demonstrating substantial progress in the last four months, and rejected objections raised by respondents about naming a panel to monitor the SIT.
The SITs themselves were formed only after the HC stepped up the pressure on the government. The two SITs are headed by senior officers from the ACB of Nagpur and Amravati units.
The state government came under fire for being lenient towards top guns involved in irrigation scam and later the chief secretary, in his affidavit, had promised to provide these SITs with “necessary legal assistance and technical help in areas of auditing, etc. as required to speed up investigations”. During last hearings the high court had lashed out at the state government for citing lame excuse of constraints of manpower and logistics for tardy progress in completing enquiry into irrigation scam matters.
Meanwhile, the Economic Offences Wing on Wednesday said the investigation into the Raigad River project near Chandur Railway and Wagdi Barrage minor irrigation project in Yavatmal, are being conducted in a transparent manner.