Are you severe about probing ex-minister: Bombay excessive court docket

MUMBAI: Expressing doubts over the state’s move to form a committee led by a retired bureaucrat to scrutinize the report of another probe panel, the Bombay high court has asked the government to spell out within a week what steps it has taken to prosecute those involved in a Rs6,000 crore scam related to purchases by the tribal development department.
The HC had in April 2014 set up a panel headed by former judge MG Gaikwad to probe the scam. In May 2017, the committee in its report blamed BJP leader Vijay Kumar Gavit, who was tribal development minister between 2004 and 2009 (he was in the NCP when he was minister). But the state on November 3, 2017 set up a second panel.

This committee, headed by retired bureaucrat P D Karandikar, was set up to examine the report and fix responsibility for corruption and irregularities.

The court said since the original probe had been conducted and a report submitted by Gaikwad, “we have our own doubts for constituting a further committee of a retired IAS officer.” Justice Shantanu Kemkhar and in their three-page order also asked the government to file an affidavit within a week on steps taken for prosecuting the culprits.

The Gaikwad committee, which had been formed by the HC while disposing of a public interest litigation filed by Nasik-based Bahiram Pawar, found rampant corruption and irregularities in procurement of items by the tribal development corporation headed by Gavit and recommended criminal action against the politician.

The committee pointed to irregularities in procurement of diesel pumps, gas burners, chatai (mats), proteins and mulching animals for tribal families and students. Contracts were given without inviting tenders; orders were given for supply of material on rate contract, but the rates were later hiked; several items were purchased without assessing the requirement or number of beneficiaries; and there was a huge difference between the rates at which the corporation purchased the material and the market cost.

The government formed the second panel in November last year. When that panel failed to complete its probe within six months, Karandikar was granted an extension of six months, taking the total cost to be spent by the government on the inquiry to Rs80 lakh when Rs3 crore had already been earlier utilized for the Gaikwad committee.

In view of the delay in taking action against Gavit, Pawar filed a fresh petition before the high court. He urged the court to quash and set aside the appointment of Karandikar and to direct the state to implement the recommendations of the Gaikwad committee report. Further, his plea said the HC should direct the state to set up a special investigation team with expertise in probing economic offences and ensure the filing of the progress report to the court.

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