An inquiry report by Anti-corruption Bureau (ACB) in connection with Rs 400 crore fisheries scam has said that former Port and Fisheries Minister and BJP Koli heavyweight Purushottam Solanki can be booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
The report submitted before a special ACB court in Gandhinagar also mentions the name of former Agriculture Minister Dileep Sanghani. These two former ministers of the Gujarat government reportedly passed the buck on each other.
The ACB report states that Solanki is “guilty of changing the policy despite not being competent” to do so and, therefore, he can be booked for corruption.
The report has also concluded that the total scam in the case is about Rs 1.6 crore and had the Gujarat High Court not intervened in the matter, it couldn’t have gone up to Rs 21 crore.
The ACB report comes almost a year after it was asked by a Gandhinagar court to probe the matter under section 202 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The report was submitted to a Gandhinagar court on Saturday.
The report does not mention the motive or monetary benefit behind Solanki’s allotment of contracts to the contractor by violating the norms. The ACB officials recorded statements of over 100 persons, including Solanki, former Agriculture Minister Dileep Sanghani, their personal assistance, a couple of IAS officers in Gandhinagar secretariat and some 50 contractors, before reaching any conclusion.
The case dates back to 2008, when Solanki was Gujarat fisheries minister and alloted fishing contracts in more than 40 dams in the state.
The report has found that in 2008, Solanki as a Fisheries Minister allegedly granted contracts of 58 reservoirs to his favourite parties without following the mandatory auctioning of tendering process. The matter came to light when a Banaskantha-based fishing contractor Ishaq Mohammad Maradia, approached HC after he was denied a contract for fishing in a state reservoir. He alleged that the government did not invite tenders, though a government resolution of 2004 stated that it would be the route for awarding fishing contracts.
In September 2008, the court scrapped the contracts and ordered tenders be invited. These tenders fetched the government Rs 45 crore in a single year, against Rs 2.4 crore for the contracts granted by the minister.
According to Maradia’s estimate, there was a loss of about Rs 400 crore to the government in the past 10 years that Solanki had allegedly been granting contracts. He moved the High Court again in 2010, this time to seek Solanki’s prosecution. Solanki was recently removed from the new ministry led by Anandi Patel. He was holding the charge of minister of state labour and employment.
The ACB report, however, differs on the value of the loss. It states that in 2008 itself Solanki gave licences on the basis of upset prices for five years. After four to five months following High Court’s intervention, the licences were cancelled. Therefore, in the five months, there was a total loss of about Rs 1.6 crore.