RESPONDING TO the Punjab government’s contention that far cheaper versions of the tree-pruning machine were available in India than the one bought by the Mohali Municipal Corporation from a foreign manufacturer at a cost of Rs 1.8 crore, Mayor Kulwant Singh has said that then politicians and bureaucrats across the country should opt for Tata Nanos or Ambassadors.
“If the argument of the respondents holds, then all politicians and bureaucrats, serving the Union or state, are entitled to Indian make Tata Nano or Ambassador car whereas almost every official in the country is seen using a foreign make or a foreign-brand vehicle, with the argument that is being raised by the respondents, an enquiry should be marked as to why such officials do not use machines of Indian make,” he said in response to the government’s allegations against him of causing loss to the state exchequer.
Kulwant on Thursday told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that the government had no “authority to give directions to the MC (Muncipal Corporation) SAS Nagar” and the contract for the tree-pruning machine cannot be cancelled by it as the municipal corporation is independent from state control. “The MC SAS Nagar, Mohali, has already been entered into a contract by way of NIT with the supplier and now the fact the machine is lying at the doorstep in case the same is done will amount to breach of contract and the MC shall be liable to pay compensation as also damages to the supplier in case of any default,” said Kulwant in a written submission.
Responding to the government probe into his role in the alleged irregularities in the purchase of the tree-pruning machine, Kulwant has questioned the appointment of the Chief Vigilance Officer, who probed the case, saying there was no formal order for the appointment and the investigator was “in fact a private person”. He also said that the enquiry report had not been made available to him.
“The petitioner does not have the relevant documents to support this claim but submitted that if this court directs the respondents to bring on record the appointment orders of the CVO, it would transpire that till today no such order has been passed,” said Kulwant, adding that the entire allegation against him cannot be relied upon.
Stating that the 50 per cent amount of the machine paid to the contractor has been done in accordance with the terms and conditions mentioned in the tender, Kulwant denied that he has caused any loss either to the exchequer or corporation. He added that the machine is standing on the premises of the supplier at Derabassi and there have been repeated requests from them to fulfil the terms of the contract.
Kulwant has said that there was no “predetermined decision” on the purchase of the machine and the estimate was prepared by the engineering wing of the MC as per rules and he had no information as to how the CVO arrived at the conclusion that machines available in India were of lesser value and what machines were compared with the one bought by the MC.
The mayor further stated that “at no stage did the then commissioner or his successor give any dissenting note or objection to the resolution passed by the House”, adding he had no role in asking the commissioner to delay the process. “Regarding the averment that the same documents were submitted by both the bidders, it is submitted that the petitioner has no role to play in the same nor has he any control over it.”
The High Court is hearing a plea filed by Kulwant against the show cause notice issued to him by the state government as part of the process of his suspension as councillor. The mayor was show caused for buying the machine at inflated prices that resulted in a loss to the exchequer. Kulwant said the amount of Rs 1.80 crore included the price for the tree-pruning machine as well as accessories and the machine was “in fact the machine used by all the developed and first world countries wherein minimum labour is required”.