A special court would next month consider a protest petition against CBI’s move to close a case against Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and two others for sanctioning Rs 50 lakh grant to a trust allegedly in a “fraudulent” manner in 2001. Special CBI Judge Anju Bajaj Chandna on Thursday heard arguments by complainant V M Singh, who has filed the protest petition, and fixed the matter for December one for further proceedings.
The complainant contended that the court should not accept CBI’s closure report as it has been wrongly filed. The court had in 2008 refused to accept the closure report filed by the probe agency and asked CBI to further investigate the matter. However, CBI had again approached the court, saying the “allegations levelled against Gandhi and two others could not be substantiated”.
An FIR was lodged by CBI in 2006 against Maneka Gandhi, now the Women and Child Development Minister, Dr F U Siddiqui, former secretary of Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) and Dr Vijay Sharma, former Managing Trustee of Gandhi Rural Welfare Trust (GRWT). It had alleged that Gandhi, in conspiracy with Siddiqui, had sanctioned a grant of Rs 50 lakh to GRWT from MAEF in an irregular manner to construct a nursing college building at Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh and caused undue favour to Sharma.
CBI alleged that another amount of Rs 10.40 lakh was sanctioned to GRWT by S K Verma, the then District Magistrate of Pilibhit, from Gandhi’s MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) funds for purchase of two ambulances. Fund was released to GRWT Managing Trustee Ramakant Rampal.
It had alleged that Rampal had purchased two jeeps which had cost much less than the approved models and failed to get them certified by the chief medical officer. The vehicles were also used for personal work by the managing trustee. The agency had again filed a closure report, saying “during the course of further investigation, the allegations levelled against Maneka Gandhi, Dr F U Siddiqui and Dr Vijay Sharma could not be substantiated.”
“It is, therefore, prayed that the closure report dated December 30, 2008, collectively read with this report, may kindly be accepted,” it said. The final report is pending in the court.
The FIR in the case was lodged for the alleged offences under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with section 420 (cheating) of the IPC and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. In its closure report, CBI said the trust had purchased two jeeps with ambulance fixtures on September 15, 2003 for Rs 9,85,008, while the balance amount was returned to the government exchequer as per the terms of sanction.
“As such no financial irregularity could be pointed out in the matter of purchase of ambulances and the change in vehicle model was found to be on justified grounds,” it said. “Investigation further revealed that the DM, Pilibhit, approved purchase of two Mahindra Voyager ambulances. A cheque dated July 27, 2003 amounting to Rs 10.40 lakh was received by GRWT for purchase of Mahindra ambulances AC Euro-II.
“Since production of this model of vehicle was temporarily stopped, the company offered to sell Mahindra DI ambulance which according to the company was rugged, reliable and easily serviceable in semi-urban and rural areas,” the agency said.
Regarding sanction of funds, CBI said during further probe, it had come on record that since the sanction was subject to submission of documents with regard to land and site plan, the amount was “released only after completion of the documentary formalities.”
It said the funds released by both MAEF and the district administration of Pilibhit have been fully utilised by the GRWT for the purposes.