Updated: June 2, 2021 1:00:35 am
JUST AS the 19-year gilt scam case involving state minister for animal husbandry Sunil Kedar draws to a close, the appointment of a new public prosecutor, who is an office-bearer of the Congress party front, has raised many an eyebrow.
Asif Qureshi, chairperson of the legal and human rights cell of the Congress and son of former Congress MLA Shaukat Qureshi, was recently appointed the new public prosecutor in the Nagpur District Central Cooperative Bank (NDCCB) gilt (government securities) scam case. Earlier on March 5, Jyoti Vajani, who was the public prosecutor in the case for the past two years put in her papers.
The case dates back to April 2002, when the alleged scam came to light. The NDCCB gave Rs 124.60 crore to five intermediary companies to purchase government securities. The five companies, Home Trade Securities, Giltage Management, Century Dealers, Syndicate Management and Indramani Merchants, however, allegedly did not return to NDCCB with any securities. Of these, the maximum amount of Rs 94 crore went to Home Trade Securities. Kedar was the chairperson of the bank back then.
Kedar was arrested on May 3, 2002. A chargesheet was filed on November 22, 2002, but Kedar secured bail on the ground that the chargesheet was not filed within the stipulated time of three months. The case has dragged on since then with 51 witnesses deposing before the court and only five to six remaining to be cross-examined.
Kedar has since won four times from Saoner constituency as Congress MLA and is now a minister in the MVA government.
In 2019, the Bombay High Court ordered day-to-day hearing of the case on a PIL seeking early disposal on the ground that it involved misappropriation of public funds. Since then, the hearing in the lower court gathered steam and a judgment is expected anytime. Some delay was also caused by Covid-19 pandemic. Qureshi’s appointment at this juncture, however, has raised speculation about the government’s intentions.
Qureshi, who is also ex-chairperson of the bar council of Maharashtra and Goa, said, “I have successfully handled responsibilities as public prosecutor over the past 15 years and have achieved a high rate of conviction. That may have been the reason why they approached me. If any conflict of interest is surmised due to my holding the MPCC post, I am ready to resign.”
Qureshi’s predecessor Jyoti Vajani said, “I have resigned on my own due to personal reasons. There is no question of being asked to resign.”
She added, “Some witnesses, about five to six, remain to be examined. But because of the pandemic they can’t be forced to come for the hearing.”
Law and judiciary department secretary Rajesh Laddha did not respond to calls and messages.
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