HC raps Maha government for inaction against officials in scam

Mumbai, Jan 8 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Wednesday slammed the Maharashtra government over its inaction against bureaucrats and others in an alleged Rs 6,000 crore scam of tribal welfare funds and said irrespective of ideologies officials shield members of their fraternity in such cases.

While making the scathing remarks, a division bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and R I Chagla said since 2014, the government had been 'dilly-dallying' over the issue and not taking any concrete steps against the errant officials.

The HC was hearing a public interest litigation filed in 2012 by an adivasi from Nashik district, Bahiram Motiram, seeking a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in purchase of materials related to tribal development schemes in the state.

After the PIL was filed, a committee was set up by the government under the chairmanship of a retired HC judge to inquire into the allegations.

The committee, in its report, noted that funds received by the tribal welfare department of the state government was misappropriated and siphoned off.

Following the report, over 70 FIRs were lodged and departmental inquiry was initiated against 13 government officials.

Tribal welfare department principal secretary Manisha Verma, through an affidavit on Wednesday, submitted that of the 13 officials, four have been suspended and approval for similar action against the remaining nine is pending before the minister concerned.

The affidavit said information regarding the criminal cases in the scam could not be obtained as police officials concerned were not cooperating.

Irked with this, the court said, 'All this is just an eyewash. Does the principal secretary seriously want us to accept such an affidavit where she is saying that she is unable to get information from the police.' The court said if the police were not forthcoming with the information, then what stopped the principal secretary from raising the issue with the state home department.

'The state government is shielding and protecting the prima facie guilty officials. Political parties at the helm of affairs are changing but they will still protect their fraternity,' Justice Dharmadhikari said.

'They help each other because today's principal secretary will be tomorrow's ex-principal secretary and may need help from the current one,' the judge maintained.

The court directed principal secretary Verma to appear before it on January 17 and explain her affidavit.

According to the PIL, the tribal welfare department allegedly made purchases towards curbing malnutrition, distribution of cows and buffaloes, supply of diesel engine and pipes, without calling for tenders and the amounts shown as disbursed for welfare were actually siphoned off.

As per the PIL, the scam size has been pegged at Rs 6,000 crore.

The petitioner alleged that in March 2006, the tribal development department procured liquid protein bottles without following the due procedure or by floating tenders.

Also, the liquid protein bottles were not distributed though the amount for the same was disbursed, he alleged. PTI SP RSY RSY