Aam Aadmi Party leader Preeti Sharma Menon, social activist Anjali Damania, Ajay Mathankar, and others had been fighting a legal battle against FA Construction in Bombay High Court for irregularities in the irrigation projects at Karjat and Konkan region. FA Construction had approached the Supreme Court mentioning that the filed PIL is not maintainable even after the matter was already heard by the Bombay HC and the court clearly said that the PIL has maintainability and it’s not an invalid PIL. Despite this, the firm filed two separate Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) in the SC and they continued asking for adjournments with an intention of delaying the case proceedings, as alleged by the petitioners.
“FA Construction was using the SLPs simply to delay the proceedings of the Bombay HC. They themselves were hardly available during the hearings. On Monday also they tried to postpone the hearing but the court denied. The SC was fed up of the adjournments that FA Construction was demanding. Finally, the SC heard the case and stated that delaying the case is not acceptable; calling the PIL maintainable, the apex court asked the construction company to go back to the Bombay HC and let the trial continue,” said AAP Leader Preeti Sharma Menon.
The Kondhane Dam in Karjat tehsil of Raigad district that initially started with an estimated cost of Rs 56 crore later escalated to a Rs 1,500 cr project. The petitioners against the irrigation scam found such similar irregularities in all dam construction projects in the Konkan region where it all started with a small amount, got approvals without going through any proceedings, and with manipulated tender procedures. Preeti shared with Afternoon Voice that even the court suggested the petitioners that a criminal case of corruption can be filed and directed the ACB to investigate. Petitioners regret that the investigations and hearing were on initially, but since the FAC filed SLPs in 2015, there have been no proper hearings. The whole process got stuck up as everybody was waiting for the SC order.
The PIL was first filed in 2012 and Devendra Fadnavis, then in Opposition, was one of the biggest complainants of irrigation scams, aviation scams, etc. against the erstwhile government. The petitioners attacked the present government stating that even though they had truckloads of data to prove the scams, ever since the Fadnavis government has come into power, the government has gone slow on investigations.
“A few days back, in an interview, the CM stated that the investigation is going on and being monitored by the court but this is not true. This is not a court-monitored inquiry. ACB, which comes directly under the CM, is independently responsible for the inquiry. This is completely a case of criminal negligence from the government,” Menon added further.
When the hearings were stuck due to the SLPs, what prevented the ACB to go ahead with their investigations? Why has the ACB seized all efforts to continue with the inquiry? “There was no direction from the court for ACB to stop the investigation. The ACB is also hand in gloves with the contractors hoping for the SC to dismiss the case and stopping to function since 2015,” Menon charged.
Petitioner Ajay Mathankar said, “My objection about the scam was irregularity and corruption in the department — a lot of required permission was not taken to start the projects. Whatever work was done in the twelve projects in that area was illegal while taxpayers’ money was at risk. Balganga Dam project cost was already paid and we managed to save Kondhane’s Rs 500 cr till now because of the PIL.”
“The previous NCP-Congress government was majorly a corrupted one. The present government made this a poll issue in 2014; subsequently, the investigations were dragged and were stalled due to the court proceedings. The ACB had filed FIRs, charge sheets and put people in jail who were granted bail later — nothing has happened to the then ministers who were accused in the case,” Mathankar further asserted.
NCP MLC Vidya Chavan expressed, “If any corruption had occurred during the erstwhile government, the incumbent State BJP government would’ve investigated it. Being in opposition then, this government used to protest against the corruption, why aren’t they taking steps now? Who’s stopping them?”
She called the allegations against NCP-Congress government made by the BJP stating it as nothing but a political game plan to defame their government and Ajit Pawar. “All these were to stop the good developmental work done by the then Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra. They had made the similar allegations at the centre — be it 2G Spectrum case or Coalgate case. But after coming to the power, they failed to prove all of their allegations while corruption in the country has seen a new height under the rule of BJP,” she added.