Surat Anti-corruption Bureau (ACB) Saturday began inquiries under disproportionate assets case against four municipal councillors — three representing the BJP, but later suspended, and one Congress — who had been caught taking bribes in the last two years. Of them, three were arrested, but are currently out on bail.
Acting on the directions of ACB Additional Director General Keshav Kumar, Assistant Director N P Gohil has started the inquiry against Meena Rathod, Nancy Sumra, Jayenti Bhanderi and Leela Sonavne.
According to the Surat ACB, among the four, BJP municipal councillor of ward 25 (Dindoli Godadara), Meena Rathod, was the first to be arrested in a bribery case on February 23, 2018. The ACB had caught her husband Dinesh Rathod red-handed accepting a bribe of Rs 5 lakh on her behalf from a local builder. Meena was later arrested by the ACB after her direct involvement in the case came out during investigation.
BJP councillor of ward 11 (Saiyedpura Muglisara), Nancy Sumra, was the second one to be arrested on August 22, 2018. Her father Mohan Sumra and brother Prince were initially caught by the ACB red-handed accepting a bribe of Rs 55,000 from a builder for allegedly not taking any steps against his illegal constructions. Later the ACB arrested Nancy.
BJP councillor Jayentilal Bhanderi of ward 8 (Singhanpore Dabholi) was the third one against whom a case was registered on February 7, 2019. The accused was caught red-handed by the ACB accepting a bribe of Rs 50,000 from a doctor in Dabholi area. The doctor, in this case also a complainant, had allegedly given the sum to the councillor for not demolishing his local dispensary. Surat city BJP president Nitin Bhajiyawala has suspended them from the party.
The fourth one is Congress councillor from ward 18 (Anjana Khatodara), Leelaben Sonavne. Her son Krunal Sonavne was arrested on February 27 for accepting a bribe of Rs 15,000 from a builder who was carrying out a construction in Khatodara area. The ACB had recorded the statements of Leelaben in the case.
Surat Congress president Babubhai Rayka had issued a showcause notice to Leela then.
The ACB has started gathering information about their source of income, properties in their names as well as their family members’, besides their investments.
Surat ACB Assistant Director Gohil said generally inquiry under the disproportionate assets case is carried out against the government servants. “Now we have started inquiries against the municipal councillors. We will find out the source of their income and expenses, investments and properties. We will carry out free and fair investigations.”
There are 116 municipal councillors representing 38 wards of Surat, out which 50 per cent are women. There are 80 municipal councillors of BJP, while the Congress has 36.
Apart from the municipal councillors, the Surat ACB had in the last two years registered seven cases of bribe against the executive engineer, deputy engineer, junior-engineer rank officials serving with Surat Municipal Corporation.
Sources in the Surat Municipal Corporation said that some elected political leaders had recommended regularisation of the illegal dome-like structure of Takshashila Arcade in Sarthana, where a fire broke out, claiming the lives of 22 students on May 24.