HC directs State to act tough against tainted officers

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 Sep 2018 11:51:42



Staff Reporter,

Find out culpability of tainted officers in 4 months

Amend rules, if necessary to punish erring officers

If necessary, these graft cases will be referred to ex-judge led panel

Directing State Government to act against tainted officers, retired, serving or those on the verge of retirement, found involved in irrigation scam, within four months, Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Friday issued series of directives to State to complete the action speedily while taking prosecution of scamsters to its logical end.

Ironically, most of the top officials facing departmental probe have been let off with inconsequential punishment of 12% cut in pension, minor cut in salary without affecting future pay by the Government. The probe was to be completed by September 30. However, the High Court has now asked the Government to amend the rules if necessary to punish the officers without whose connivance, scam could not take place.

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 pronounced its much awaited verdict and directed that if State finds officers guilty, those cases could be referred to ex-judge led panel named to oversee graft related cases.

However, the High Court did not issue any directive on responsibility of then political leadership which is in the dock due to their alleged hob-nobbing with beneficiary contractors and pliant officer. But, the High Court has not closed the issue either since the State Government failed to produce any authoritative document or opinion of Advocate General about breach of Rules of Business by then Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar while allowing cost escalation as chairman of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) and not as Minister.

The Chief Secretary in his affidavit had promised that ACB was probing the role of 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. “Statement of Pawar (respondent no 7) has been recorded by 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 had revealed while promising that role of Pawar was being looked “in view of the Rules of Business, Government of Maharashtra,” while informing about pending legal opinion from Advocate General, which was not placed on record till date. 

It may be recalled that 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.


Project cost escalated by Rs 20,050 cr

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 in earlier hearings 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.


Govt exonerates tainted officers

Top officials of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) and Water Resources Department facing departmental probe into irrigation scam for their complicity or connivance, negligence or dereliction of duty, have already been let off by State Government with inconsequential punishment.

Ironically, former VIDC Executive Director D P Shirke, who has been named as an accused by Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) in most of the FIRs, has been granted clean chit and “exonerated” vide order dated June 22, 2018 in irregularities pertaining to Gosikhurd project. Most others have been awarded either 12 % cut in their pensions for three years, or minor reduction in salary but without affecting their future salary.

Ex-GAD secretary S B Tamsekar conducted the enquiry against retired Chief Engineer S R Suryawanshi and 50 others under rule 8 and 12 of Maharashtra Civil Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1979 to levy major punishments.


DE started against 54 officers

The departmental probe was started against 54 officers including Executive Director, 6 Chief Engineers, 10 Superintending Engineers, 34 Executive Engineers namely then ED D P Shirke; CEs: D R Kandi, M E Shekh, S R Suryawanshi, M V Patil, G S Lokhande, N B Ghuge, SEs: D D Pohekar, B S Swami, A M Ambadekar, H A Dhangare, S D Kulkarni, S G Gawande, Shivkumar Giri, Rajendra Pawar, M A Matey, S D Salunkhe, U V Parvate; Executive Engineers: P V Morghade, A N Bahadure, S V Mhatre, J D Tale, K S Vemulkonda, M Y Rane, R V Mohod, A N Ladole, H D Chandewar, J G Gawli, A B Bhake, R K Dhawale, A P Parate, S D Wankhede, P S Kachre, A H Khan, N J Bambal, M T Deshmukh, R S Sontakke, R D Tembe, D V Musale, S D Pande, M H Rathi, S G Rathi, R G Mundada, R V Matkar, A T Deogade, S K Dhoble, K R Hatgaokar, V P Jadhav, S R Borse, M S Amle and M J Yadav.