HC to pronounce verdict on irrigation scam cases today

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 28 Sep 2018 10:27:23


Staff Reporter,

Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court is slated to pronounce the much-awaited verdict on a crucial aspect of irrigation scam cases pertaining to tardy progress of investigation, slow pace of trial, virtually inaction against main players of the scam and whether an outside agency should monitor the progress of the cases along with collective fine on past and present staffers of Water Resources Department and irrigation development corporation.

A division bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Z A Haq after a very detailed hearing of the PILs filed by Jan Manch and activist Atul Jagtap had closed the issue for orders on July 26 and is slated to pronounce the order on Friday at 2.30 pm.

The High Court had expressed deep anguish over loss of public revenue and inaction of investigating agency and collusion of some past and present officers of Water Resources Department (WRD) and irrigation development corporations, while mooting to slash salaries of entire department for its abysmal failure in protecting public interest and on the contrary causing massive loss to public exchequer. The irregularities took place during 2004-2008, and entire scam was highlighted way back in 2012.

The open enquiry was ordered by Chief Minister on December 12, 2014, but till date except filing some FIRs against obscure companies, no big fish was touched, the High Court had observed while making it clear that it was not interested in monitoring the investigations since it was beyond its scope, but firmly stated that it would not allow any dilution, diversion or delay in matters of public importance and particularly when huge loss of public money was involved.

State Government had opposed imposition of collective punishment on entire Irrigation Department to reimburse the loss caused due to scam claiming that it would penalise honest government officers and without authority of law such orders could not be passed. Former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and his close aide Sandip Bajoria had also opposed such a step and monitoring by ex-judges.

The petitioners strongly opposed almost identical stance taken by State Government and former Deputy Chief Minister and his close aide while stating Jan Manch had submitted evidence against irregularities and highlighted that within a span of just seven months in 2009, cost of 38 irrigation projects under VIDC had escalated by a
whopping Rs 20,050.06 crore -- from Rs 6,672.27 crore to
Rs 26,722.33 crore.

The High Court had also mooted a committee to probe causes of delay in completing investigation in time while observing that the delay results in prejudice to prosecution and help accused persons.  The High Court, while reserving its verdict, had reminded everyone that honest taxpayers’ money had been siphoned about which nobody was concerned while respondents were unanimous in not taking collective action against one department which was obviously in the dock.