Updated: October 18, 2020 3:24:08 pm
The Surat Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), on Saturday, arrested the District Education Officer (DEO) of Tapi district and his office clerk for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 10 lakh, in exchange for withdrawing notices sent to a trust-run school for tribals to cancel its recognition. A team of DEO officials had conducted a surprise inspection at the school during the lockdown period and found some shortfalls.
The DEO of Tapi, Bharat Patel, had carried out a surprise inspection at a self-financed secondary and higher secondary school at Vyara town of Tapi district on July 1. Over 110 students from classes nine to 12 study in six classrooms of the Gujarati medium school. All students belong to tribal communities and the majority of them are girls, as per school sources.
Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the school was closed in July and only a security guard was posted at the premises. The guard had intimated the school principal about the DEO’s surprise visit. The principal had then reached the school and raised an issue over how an inspection could be carried out amid the pandemic. However, the DEO team found certain shortfalls pertaining to the school’s management and served a notice regarding the work to be undertaken, failing which the recognition of the school would be cancelled.
After a few weeks, the school principal, who is also the complainant in the case, had gone to the DEO office and handed him the details of the work completed. However, the DEO issued a notice to the school for the second time in August, stating that there were still shortfalls on 13 counts. Subsequently, the school principal had submitted the relevant reports again. This time, however, the DEO demanded
Rs 10 lakh from the principal on behalf of withdrawing the notice issued to the school, as per ACB.
The principal had then contacted the Surat ACB office and lodged a complaint against the DEO, after which a trap was laid at the nearby DEO office. On Friday, however, DEO Patel refused to accept the bribe amount from the complainant and asked him to hand it to the office clerk, Ravindra Patel. Suspecting something amiss, Patel also denied to accept the bribe amount. The complainant had then left the DEO office and intimated ACB officials about the same.
ACB officials then registered an offence of bribe against the Tapi DEO and his office clerk Ravindra Patel under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. ACB officials had detained both officials on Friday and brought them to Surat ACB office where their Covid-19 tests were conducted. On Saturday, the accused were arrested after their test results turned up negative.
The complainant said, “We were surprised when 18 DEO officials had come over for an inspection amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The school was closed and due to rainfall, grass had grown on the ground, to which the DEO had objected. The DEO had mentioned useless issues in the notice given to us. Our school is self-financed and we run it on donations. We are not charging a single penny from parents. We knew about the ill-intention of the DEO since the first visit, but why should we have given him a bribe? If I would have accepted his bribe deal, he would have targeted other schools in Vyara.”
Assistant Director of Surat ACB, NP Gohil said, “We have arrested both the accused. DEO Bharat Patel is a class one officer, while clerk Ravindra Patel is one of class three rank. The DEO had demanded a bribe of Rs 10 lakh for closing the notice issued to the school. We will dig out more information during the remand period of the accused.”
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