ACB files 4,457-page chargesheet against 12 in Mokhabardi case

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 Jan 2018 09:48:08


Staff Reporter,

Going a step further in the ongoing investigation into multi-crore irrigation scam, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has filed chargesheet against 12 persons in a case pertaining to irregularities in tail branch canal work under Mokhabardi lift irrigation scheme. The chargesheet submitted before Special Court (Prevention of Corruption Act) runs into 4,457
pages and ACB has kept a provision for supplementary chargesheet if more evidence is found against those named in it.

Those named in the chargesheet filed on Tuesday include Sopan Ramrao Suryawanshi, retired Chief Engineer, Gosikhurd national irrigation project, and the then Chairman of Pre-Qualification Evaluation Committee; Umashankar Wasudeo Parvate, retired Executive Engineer, Gosikhurd Right Bank Canal Division, and Member Secretary of Pre-Qualification Evaluation Committee; Chandan Tulshiram Jibhkate, Senior Divisional Accounts Officer, Water Resources Department (WRD); D P Shirke, retired Executive Director of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC); Dilip Deorao Pohekar, Superintending Engineer; Kalindi Rajendra Shah and Tejaswini Rajendra Shah, both Directors of R J Shah & Company Limited, Mumbai; Vishal Pravin Thakkar, Pravin Nathalal Thakkar, Jigar Pravin Thakkar, Arun Kumar Gupta, and Ramesh Kumar Soni, all Directors and power of attorney holders of D Thakkar Constructions Private Limited.

In March 2016, ACB had booked nine persons in the case relating to irregularities in bidding and tendering of contract for executing work at Mokhabardi Lift Irrigation Scheme (LIS) in Chandrapur district. They were booked under Sections 13 (1) (c) (d), 13 (2), 15 of Prevention of Corruption Act, and Sections 420, 467, 468, 471, 109, 120 (b) of Indian Penal Code. Yuvraj Patki, Police Inspector, was entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out further investigation into the case.

As per the press release issued by P R Patil, Superintendent of Police, ACB, Nagpur, during the investigation various documents were studied including certificates of previous work experience submitted by the contractors concerned, bank guarantee, documents furnished at the time of submitting pre-qualification application for tender process. The ACB also ‘traced the source’ of earnest money deposit amount paid by the contractors, and ‘took action accordingly’.

ACB also obtained depositions of witnesses, remarks of expert committee appointed by the Government (Chitale Committee) to probe irrigation scam, report of Wadnere Committee that probed updating of cost of the tenders, letters from Branch Manager of banks concerned, documents from officers of VIDC and those in the Mantralaya.

According to ACB officials, the then officers of VIDC ‘misused’ their positions as public servants, hatched a ‘criminal conspiracy’ with partners of contractor firm M/s R J Shah and Company and D Thakkar Construction Pvt Ltd (JV), illegally updated the cost of the tender, and aided the said firm in getting the contract of Rs 56,57,32,680/-. “Through this, an attempt was made to extend undue financial favours to the contractor, and create financial responsibility on VIDC/State Government,” ACB stated in the press release.

ACB stated that among those named in the chargesheet, Umashankar Wasudeo Parvate submitted a proposal ‘in violation of norms’ for publication of tender notice even before technical sanction. Besides, he and Chandan Tulshiram Jibhkate did not conduct proper scrutiny of experience certificates. The officials who attended the meeting of Pre-Qualification Bid Evaluation Committee, extended ‘relaxation in violation of norms’ and qualified the ineligible contractors. In its chargesheet, ACB has pinned the blame on Sopan Ramrao Suryawanshi, Umashankar Wasudeo Parvate, and Chandan Tulshiram Jibhkate for this.

As far as the contractor firm M/s R J Shah and Company and D Thakkar Construction Pvt Ltd (JV) is concerned, ACB found in its investigation that it had prepared a ‘fake’ experience certificate for the said tender process, projected itself as main contractor despite being a sub-contractor, and got the contract through ‘criminal conspiracy’. While the said firm was executing a work at Dagadparwa in Akola district, it submitted a ‘fake’ undertaking that it was not executing any work under VIDC. Besides, it purposely replaced the word ‘and’ with ‘or’ in the pre-qualification application ‘with an intent to cheat’. Also, D Thakkar Construction Pvt Ltd paid from its account the amount of earnest money deposit for the rival contractors, and thus created ‘artificial competition’, stated ACB.

After investigations, ACB filed chargesheet running into 4,457 pages before Special Court (Prevention of Corruption Act) on Tuesday, against 12 persons named above. If more evidences are found during into the case or more persons are found to be involved, ACB will conduct further investrigation and file supplementary chargesheet under Section 173 (8) of Criminal Procedure Code.

The investigation in the matter was conducted under the guidance of P R Patil by a team comprising Ganesh Kadam, Police Inspector; Mangesh Kalambe, Police Constable; and Manjusha Bundhale, Woman Police Constable.


The action so far in irrigation scam

ACB has filed seven FIRs in irrigation scam so far. ACB is taking the action following an open enquiry conducted in works relating to Gosikhurd national irrigation project, in accordance with the open enquiry ordered by Home Department of Maharashtra Government into the irrigation scam.

Milind Totre, Deputy Commissioner of Police (ACB), and his team were assigned to conduct an inquiry into the matter. The actions of ACB, following completion of an open enquiry, have rattled the beneficiary contractors, pliant officers who tweaked the norms to dole out favours to contractors, and their political godfathers. Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister, has been stating on the floor of State Legislature that his Government would not spare anybody involved in the irrigation scam, and the ACB actions reflect this.

The first FIR in the irrigation scam, pertaining to Gosikhurd national project, was filed in February 2016. Then, ACB had registered the FIR relating to cut-and-cover works, earth-work, and other construction on Ghodajhari branch canal in the stretch between 42.60 km to 88 km points. In March 2016, ACB had booked the officials regarding irregularities in bidding and tendering of contract for executing work at Mokhabardi LIS in Chandrapur district. In April 2017, ACB filed FIR relating to irregularities in works of Ghodajhari branch canal including irregularities regarding execution of works between 8.52 km and 43.80 km stretch of Nerla (Paghora) LIS, earth-work and construction of Pendhri branch canal, and also execution of earth-work and cut-and-cover work between 8800 mtr to 13335 mtr points of Ghodajhari branch canal.

The latest four FIRs were registered at Sadar Police Station on December 12, 2017. Of these four latest FIRs, two related to irregularities in execution of works of Mokhabardi LIS. And, the other two were in cases of works relating to earth-work and construction in 0-10 km stretch of Gosikhurd left bank canal (LBC), and cut-and-cover work between 0-26 km stretch of Ghodajhari sub-section canal of Ghodajhari branch canal on Gosikhurd right bank canal (RBC).