It was a relief for the Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar when the Bombay high court bench at Nagpur rejected an application to join the CBI, ED, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), the union government and others as respondents.The high court move was a major setback for the applicants Atul Jagtap and Jan Manch that demanded inquires of multi-crore irrigation scam through CBI, ED or through a commission of enquiry by a retired supreme court of a high court judge, instead of the anti-corruption bureau.
One of the petitioners, Atul Jagtap was vehemently opposed by counsel for Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, dubbing it as politically motivated with an oblique motive to transfer the probe to central agencies with a sole aim to implicate Pawar. Wondering over the tone and tenor of application, the Counsel of Pawar, pointed out that from last four years, various orders have been passed, SITs constituted, FIRs registered and charge sheets filed.
Suddenly, the petitioners seem to have lost faith in the investigating agency and without rhyme or reason the demand to change the investigating agency or even appointment of a commission of enquiry is being made, he stated while opposing all such demands.
During the course of hearing, the High Court sought to know the reasons for impleading central agencies as party-respondent and found no legally sustainable answers to its probing queries.
Responding to the hearings, a division bench consisting of Justice Ravindra Ghuge and Justice Shriram Modak turned down the application to include central agencies as respondents at this juncture. The High Court made it clear that it had powers to issue directions to agencies and they need not be made joined as respondents right now.
Jan Manch in its application had expressed complete lack of confidence over impartiality and ability of ACB to conduct irrigation scam cases and sought appointment of a commission of enquiry headed by sitting or retired Supreme Court or High Court judge. Only such enquiry commission would be able to unearth the truth without getting influenced by any other factor, Jan Manch stated in its application.
The other petitioner Jagtap had demanded transfer of irrigation scam probe to Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation following the shocking U-turn made by the ACB in irrigation scam granting clean chit to Pawar. This is a desperate attempt to exonerate the real culprit while passing the blame in subordinate officers and field level engineers, Jagtap had claimed while stating that ACB’s affidavit had clearly revealed that probe was not conducted in the right direction and apparently influenced by extraneous factors.
The state ACB has said that the NCP leader Ajit Pawar has no criminality in the irrigation scam that is being probed for seven years. The ACB chief Param Bir Singh has endorsed affidavits filed by the unit heads in Vidarbha who had earlier told the Bombay High Court in their periodic review that Pawar, the then water resources minister, was clean in a Rs 70,000 crore scam.
The affidavits had created a political storm because earlier DG Sanjay Barve had placed a contradictory view before the high court, saying that Pawar was responsible in the scam and had intervened in awarding contracts for major irrigation projects.