MUMBAI: The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Wednesday posted a plea in the multi-crore irrigation scam for further hearing on February 13 after Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar in an affidavit filed before the bench refuted all allegations against him.
In a common reply, to the civil application of Atul Jagtap that sought transfer of investigation in the scam to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and The Enforcement Directorate (ED) and other applications identical in nature, Pawar argued that there was no need for any probe by CBI or ED as the petitioner, who is a contractor by profession, is acting with “mala fide” intentions. The affidavit was filed on Tuesday.
“I raise an objection regarding locus standi of Jagtap and maintainability of the present applications as the petitioner has no locus to make the prayers as contained in the said applications. The four PILs filed by Jagtap are not maintainable in as much as Jagtap is himself a contractor and filed tenders in respect of various projects which were involved in the present alleged PIL,” said Pawar’s affidavit.
“The present civil applications may not be entertained by the HC as they are actuated by personal motives mala fide intentions, business rivalry or not in the nature of public interest,” it added.
“I deny all allegations concerning me or imputing me in toto. I say that I have not indulged in any corrupt, motivated or mala fide act while discharging my duties as a minister. I state that I have, as a minister or as ex-officio chairman of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), have followed all the rules and have discharged my public duties with a clear conscience and without fear, favour or illegal motives,” Pawar said in the affidavit.
“I further deny the contention that the present investigation is required to be handed over to the CBI or the Enforcement Directorate and state there is not even a farthing of either pleadings or evidence to show the exceptional case as to why the investigation requires to be transferred and for statements and averments made in such vague and careless manners, the prayers made in application deserve to be rejected,” Pawar stated.
The bench of Justices S B Shukre and Madhav Jamdarwas have posted the petition for next hearing on February 13.
One of the petitioners, NGO Janmanch’s counsel Firdos Mirza on Wednesday submitted an application seeking that the court set up a judicial inquiry, as the petitioner does not have faith in both the state and central agencies and fears that the investigating agencies were favouring Pawar.
“In view of the changing political equations and the role played by Ajit Pawar in the formation of the government, the petitioner does not have faith in any investigating agency and is hence, seeking a judicial commission of inquiry to be set up under the chairmanship of a retired judge,” the plea said.
Pawar’s counsel Prasad Dhakepalkar opposed the request and said a special investigation team has already been set up and the probe into the alleged scam is still on.
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) counsel Anand Jaiswal also opposed the application filed by the petitioner.
In December 2019, the ACB filed an affidavit in the court giving a clean chit to Pawar and stating that no cognizable offence was made out against the NCP leader. The agency said its inquiry found no involvement of Pawar in the alleged scam in 12 projects undertaken by the VIDC. The petitioners then filed applications challenging the clean chit and sought that the probe be transferred to the CBI or ED.