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Boost for Sheila as High Court stays Lokayukta order on low-floor buses

In what comes as a shot in the arm for the Sheila Dikshit Government,the Delhi High Court on Tuesday stayed the production of tender records for the purchase of 625 non-AC,low-floor and CNG buses...

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | New Delhi |
February 4, 2009 12:37:51 am

In what comes as a shot in the arm for the Sheila Dikshit Government,the Delhi High Court on Tuesday stayed the production of tender records for the purchase of 625 non-AC,low-floor and CNG buses as ordered by the Lokayukta,the agency which probes corruption in government.

The High Court’s decision comes within 24 hours of the government challenging the Lokayukta order,criticising the agency of conducting a “roving enquiry” based on “surmises and conjectures” after “totally misreading the provisions of the Delhi Lokayukta and Upalokayukta Act,1995”.

“No steps pursuant to direction in the order dated 28.01.2009 be taken,” Justice S Ravindra Bhat ordered on Tuesday.

The Lokayukta had on January 28 served an ultimatum to the State’s Transport Secretary to personally produce the documents on February 9 at 2 pm.

The anti-corruption cell presided by Justice Manmohan Sarin had cautioned the government of action under Section 175 IPC which prescribes imprisonment upto six months or a fine.

“Non-compliance of the directions for the production of records tantamounts to defiance and non-cooperation by an administration professed to be committed to efficiency and transparency. It does not certainly augur well,” the Lokayukta had ticked off the government.

The agency was hearing a complaint filed by BJP MLA Vijay Jolly last year alleging corruption by the Congress government in the state for purchasing low-floor buses “at an inflated price”.

Jolly had filed a complaint with the Lokayukta about the scam in the purchase of low-floor buses. He had alleged that the Tamil Nadu Government had purchased the same buses for Rs 25 lakh less.

“The complaint alleges the public exchequer lost approximately Rs 153.36 crore. Allegations of misappropriation,embezzlement and wrongful actions for personal gain,etc,were made against Chief Minister,Minister of Transport,other ministers,officials and Chairman of Delhi Transport Corporation,” Justice Sarin recaps the dispute in his order.

Appearing for the government,counsel Najmi Waziri and Rajeev Nanda rebutted Jolly’s complaint as “politically motivated,malicious,false” and said the conduct of the complainant (Jolly) was “highly irresponsible”.

The government lawyers accused Jolly of concealing a clarification he received from the Chennai Metropolitan Transport Corporation on October 20,2008 that their buses were only semi-floor buses whereas Delhi’s were AC ones. “The same was not disclosed,” Waziri had argued.

“Low-floor buses have several distinct advantages over the ordinary buses or the semi-low floor buses acquired by the Metropolitan Corporation,Chennai. They are stated to be comfortable and disabled-friendly. Hence,the higher price,” Justice Sarin quotes the government side.

The Lokayukta had still gone ahead to insist on the production of the tender records,saying it was “the government could not decline production of the records”.

The court has issued notices to both the office of the Lokayukta and Vijay Jolly. The case will be further heard on February 11.

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