No central probe into clean chit to Ajit Pawar in Maharashtra irrigation scam
The High Court said it found no legally sustainable basis for impleading the central agencies as respondents in the case and added they need not be joined as respondents right now while posting the matter for further hearing on March 13.Updated: Feb 13, 2020 22:52 IST
In a relief to Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court on Thursday rejected a public interest litigation (PIL) that had questioned the clean chit to Pawar in the multi-crore irrigation scam given by the state’s anti corruption bureau (ACB) and had sought a judicial probe and involvement of central investigating agencies. The High Court also refused to make the Centre a respondent in the case along with the central agencies.
The petitioners, activist Atul Jagtap and Jan Manch had questioned ACB’s impartiality and ability to probe the irrigation scam cases citing the agency’s alleged U-turn on Ajit Pawar’s role and demanded that the probe be transferred to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or a judicial commission.
The ACB had earlier accused Pawar-- water irrigation minister between 1999-2009--- of presiding over a regime in which “procedures were bypassed, pecuniary benefits were passed on, sub-standard was work allowed leading to drain upon public exchequer,” but in recent affidavits gave him a clean chit saying he had no role in the cost upgradation or the mobilisation of advance. The ACB said there was no evidence of money trail linking Pawar and suggested that the scam was a result of procedural irregularities, departmental lapses and deviations for which the minister could not be held responsible.
Petitioner Jagtap called it a desperate attempt to exonerate the real culprit while passing the blame on subordinate officers and field level engineers. He alleged that the probe was not going in the right direction and was apparently influenced by extraneous factors and cited the change in government in Maharashtra.
Pawar’s representative and senior counsel Dhakephalkar countered by saying the investigations were monitored by the High Court, FIRs were registered, charge-sheets were filed and special courts were directed to conduct the trial in a time-bound manner and it was difficult to understand why the petitioners seemed to have suddenly lost faith in the ACB. He said the demand for a fresh inquiry was tantamount to going a step backward and alleged that the petitions seeking the transfer of probe to central agencies were politically motivated with the sole aim to implicate Pawar.
The High Court said it found no legally sustainable basis for impleading the central agencies as respondents in the case and added they need not be joined as respondents right now while posting the matter for further hearing on March 13.