Controversial bureaucrat Radheshyam Mopalwar has got a breather, with the Maharashtra government allowing him to resume work after a three-man committee looking into the allegations of corruption levelled against him in the legislature submitted its report. The police will, however, continue to probe the allegations of disproportionate assets against him.
Tuesday, the general administration department (GAD) led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis issued orders allowing the 1995-batch IAS officer, who had been on forced leave since August 3 this year, to resume his position as the Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation Limited (MSRDC).
Mopalwar rejoined immediately after receiving the order. Following an uproar on the floor of the House over the surfacing of audio tapes in which he was allegedly heard talking about bribes, Fadnavis had on August 3 directed Mopalwar to proceed on leave, while appointing a three-man panel under former chief secretary Johny Joseph to probe the allegations.
The committee was told to examine the authenticity of the tapes, while also ascertaining if the conversations in these and the allegations raised against the bureaucrat were linked to the MSRDC’s flagship Samruddhi Corridor project. It was also asked to find out if Mopalwar was an accused in the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) case in the multi-crore Telgi stamp paper scam. The terms of reference also included probing allegations raised against Mopalwar in various representations.
The Indian Express had reported earlier that the committee, which submitted its report on November 30, had virtually given the bureaucrat a clean chit, following its conclusion that the tapes appeared to be “edited”. To justify its finding, the committee had quoted a report of the Mumbai-based Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), which had questioned the validity of the tapes. Incidentally, high level sources confirmed that the tapes that were examined were samples taken from news channels that had aired them.
The panel had failed to recover the original recordings. “While the main complainant in the case, Satish Mangle, had initially offered to submit these to the committee, he never did so,” said a source. The committee never examined the original audio clips, raising some questions on whether the report could be termed conclusive.
The committee also ruled that the conversation in the tapes, even if taken on face value, pertained to a land parcel in Mumbai’s Borivali, and had no relation to the Samruddhi Corridor project. It further mentioned that the CBI had clarified Mopalwar wasn’t an accused in the Telgi case, while claiming that the allegations levelled by Mangle against Mopalwar were “unsubstantiated”. But the sources confirmed that the committee had not inquired into allegations of disproportionate assets raised against him. It argued that the state’s Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) were independently probing these.
Fadnavis, when contacted, confirmed that he had accepted the probe panel’s findings, while clarifying that the ACB and the ED probes against Mopalwar would continue. “As of now, the committee has probed the allegations that were levelled against him during the Assembly proceedings, and has cleared him on these allegations. So we have now asked him to resume on his position,” said the CM. He, however, clarified, “Any other inquiry (against Mopalwar) will continue even if the complaint has been raised by the same complainant.”
On Tuesday, the GAD issued orders condoning his period of absence as “earned leave”, while notifying that he was being “reappointed on the same post”. Interestingly, Mopalwar had submitted his application for treatment of his ‘period of absence’ as earned leave to the GAD only on Tuesday.
In November, Mangale and his wife Shraddha were arrested by the Thane police after Mopalwar conducted a “sting operation” where the duo allegedly demanded a Rs 10-crore bribe from him. The Thane police had helped Mopalwar conduct the sting operation. The source said the duo’s arrest had further bolstered Mopalwar’s chances of earning a clean chit. He is set to retire in February next year.