The government has written to 11 PSUs to verify their records for any exercise of “undue influence” by Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa during his tenure in the Power Ministry from 2009 to 2013.
The confidential communication dated August 29 was issued “with the approval” of the Power Secretary to the chief vigilance officers (CVOs) of the PSUs. It states, “it has been alleged that Shri Ashok Lavasa, IAS during his tenure in the Ministry of Power from September 2009 to December 2013 as JS/Additional Secretary/Special Secretary used his official position to exercise undue influence to benefit few companies/associate companies”.
With the letter, the Power Ministry has annexed a list of 14 companies — all engaged in power and renewable energy sectors — where the Election Commissioner’s wife Novel Lavasa served as Director.
Also attached is a list of 135 projects awarded by various PSUs and state governments to companies of the A2Z Group, with details of payments to the tune of Rs 45.8 lakh received by Novel Lavasa. There is another list of 13 large projects given by various state governments to A2Z Waste Management Limited between 2009-2011 when Ashok Lavasa was posted in the Power Ministry.
The CVOs have been asked to “verify your records for any evidence regarding involvement in any decision making concerning or exercise of influence, in any form exercised by Shri Ashok Lavasa in securing any benefits to these companies/ associated companies for eg in the form of award of contracts/arbitration awards; placing of supply/commercial orders; entering into MoUs/commercial agreement and other financial accruals etc”.
The PSUs which have received the communication include NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation), NHPC (erstwhile National Hydroelectric Power Corporation), REC (formerly Rural Electrification Corporation) and PFC (Power Finance Corporation).
Asked about the letter, Ashok Lavasa told The Indian Express, “I have no comments to make and am not aware of anything of this kind.”
During the Lok Sabha elections, The Indian Express had reported that Lavasa had dissented with the majority view within the Election Commission giving clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah on five different complaints of violation of model code of conduct (MCC). Lavasa, who is second in seniority to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, had later recused himself from EC meetings on the MCC.
As reported by The Indian Express in September, three members of the Lavasa family, including Novel, are under the scanner of the Income Tax Department for alleged non-declaration of income and disproportionate assets. Lavasa’s son Abir Lavasa’s company (Nourish Organic) and his sister Shakuntala Lavasa, a paediatrician, have received income tax notices. Hearings in the cases are in progress.