The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the Maharashtra government to come clear on the the role of former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in the multi-crore irrigation scam, an enquiry regarding which is underway. The court also gave two weeks to the state government to respond on the matter.
Pawar’s name in the irrigation muddle surfaced three years ago. The court on Friday sought to know why the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) hasn’t yet questioned the former deputy chief minister despite several allegations against him. The bench, comprising Justice Bhushan Dharmadikari and Justice Swapna Joshi, directed Additional Government Pleader Anand Fulzele to file a comprehensive affidavit on the status of inquiry against Pawar.
It also asked the government to place on record the status of inquiry against former NCP MLC from Yavatmal Sandeep Bajoriya, who had allegedly got contracts for four irrigation projects despite not having the requisite experience to carry out the work.
The directives came on a PIL filed by Atul Jagtap. Jagtap’s council Shridhar Purohit said that the four irrigation projects of Jigaon (Buldana), Lower Pedhi (Amravati), Raigad Barrage (Amravati), Waghadi (Yavatmal) were awarded to Bajoriya and the ACB had filed affidavits regarding the irregularities in these projects, but nothing had been said about the role of Pawar, who is one of the respondents in the PIL and who allegedly helped Bajoriya to bag the contract for the projects. The PIL has alleged that Bajoriya had submitted bogus experience certificates to bag the contract. Moreover, mobilisation advance was paid to Bajoriya Construction Company despite no provision for the same in the tender. Also work order was issued before cost ehancement by 25 per cent.
While Jigaon and Lower Pedhi are being probed by ACB, the other two are being inquired into by police. So far, only one FIR has been lodged, in Jigaon case, on November 3, 2017, which names a director of the company, Sumit Bajoriya and the then concerned officials of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation.
Purohit further said that ACB had not made any efforts to question Pawar and was trying to mislead the court by mentioning in its affidavit that the inquiry was on. Earlier, the government submitted tender documents for the four projects to the court.