State forms 2 SITs to probe 43 irrigation scam cases

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 04 Apr 2018 10:25:36


Staff Reporter,

Under fire for casual approach in completing open probe ordered 39 months ago pertaining to mind-boggling irrigation scam in which needle of suspicion was tilted towards then Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, ex-WRD Minister Sunil Tatkare, senior officers and influential contractors, State Government has finally decided to form two Special Investigation Teams (SITs) to complete the probe into irrigation scam cases. However, contrary to expectation that SITs will be headed by senior officers and multi-agency experts will be roped in to unearth the scam whose magnitude was pegged at whopping Rs 70,000 crore, the two so called SITs are a great disappointment and are nothing but re-grouping of officers from Anti Corruption Bureau of Nagpur and Amravati units.

The two teams will be headed by Superintendent of Police rank officers to probe irrigation scam cases of Nagpur and Amravati divisions respectively. SIT Nagpur and SIT Amravati will have one additional SP rank officer, three Dy SP rank officers, nine Police Inspectors and necessary police staff to conduct the probe expeditiously. Nagpur ACB unit is enquiring and investigating into 17 projects while Amravati ACB is investigating 26 projects. Thane ACB is also probing 12 matters.

So far out of 35 cases of Nagpur and Amravati divisions covered in open enquiry, offences have been registered in 16 cases while chargesheet has been filed in only 2 cases while 14 cases are under investigation by respective Anti Corruption Bureau units.

According to a cryptic affidavit filed by Chief Secretary, “ACB has to probe into allegation of corruption, irregularities and illegalities committed in the tender process, award of contract/work and its execution by scanning and analysing voluminous documents, recording statements, collecting and collating all available evidence, obtaining expert opinions on various technical and legal issues and therefore, to arrive at a legal and logical conclusion, considering these voluminous tasks, the enquiry officers require sufficient time to complete these investigations.”

Chief Secretary has promised on behalf of State Government to provide these SITs with “necessary legal assistance and technical help in areas of auditing etc. as required to speed up investigations.”

During last hearing the High Court had lashed out at State Government for citing the lame excuse of constraints of manpower and logistics for tardy progress in completing enquiry into irrigation scam matters. The High Court had made its displeasure very clear when Chief Secretary Sumit Mullick’s affidavit repeated that Ajit Pawar who held Water Resources Department during Congress-NCP regime for pretty long time in irrigation scam cases, pursuant to Open Enquiry ordered by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to punish scamsters who looted state exchequer, “statement of Pawar (respondent no 7) has been recorded by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) and his role is also being investigated in award of the tender and approval of the work order by examining various related documents.” Chief Secretary’s affidavit had further revealed that role of Pawar is being looked “in view of the Rules of Business, Government of Maharashtra,” and legal opinion has been sought regarding role of respondent no 7 while promising that ACB will leave no stone unturned to complete the probe and investigation expeditiously in fair and transparent manner.

This failed to satisfy the High Court which tersely observed “Then Advocate General made a categorical statement on the basis of direct instructions from Hon’ble Chief Minister on December 12, 2014 in the matter as serious as irrigation scam involving public revenue and misdeeds of high functionaries, it is surprising that even 3 years 3 months later the probe is progressing at a snail’s pace. If this is state of affairs after the Chief Minister orders an open probe then what must be happening to ordinary investigations ?” the High Court had wondered while strongly deprecating the conduct of investigating agencies and entire machinery in prolonging the probe against high and mighty.

Asking it to wake from deep slumber and get going after the real scamsters, the High Court had also sought to know as to why Special Investigation Teams were not formed and warned that if on next date, no satisfactory explanation was offered, it would pass appropriate orders.

The High Court made it clear that Chief Secretary’s detailed affidavit must disclose stages of open enquiry and progress into irrigation scam cases without harping on lack of manpower and resources. At least in serious and sensitive case of this magnitude, such reasons should not be extended to hide complete failure to bring scamsters to book, the High Court tersely observed while taking authorities to task.

The latest affidavit has once again skipped these vital issues and dished out very vague details about probe without providing any cogent reason for delay in completing the scam probe.

The earlier affidavit was also filed in response to a direction issued by the High Court on February 28 asking the Chief Secretary to file his detailed affidavit explaining whether Rules of Business were followed or not and why the ACB was so reluctant to probe the irrigation scam cases despite categorical commitment made to the court and after a specific direction was issued to it.

The High Court had warned that it would pass appropriate order, if Government was unwilling to come clean on this issue, while giving a dressing down to the respondent authorities during last hearing.