Indore land scam: will K.K.Mishra have the last laugh?
Posted August 11, 2010on:
Two developments give an indication of the fate of the Indore Sugnidevi College land scam case now being investigated by the Lokayukta on orders of a designated court of Indore. The scam involves industries and commerce minister Kailash Vijayvargiya and his close lieutenant and BJP MLA Ramesh Mendola.
Lokayukta Prakash Prabhakar Naolekar told reporters at Indore that he knew about the scam only from what had appeared in the newspapers as the case was being investigated by the Lokayukta police and he did not interfere with the working of his police. In the second development, the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has issued notices on a petition challenging the investigation of scam mainly on the ground that the designated court could not direct the Lokayukta but only could issue directions to the police to investigate a case.
The Indore designated court had directed the Lokayukta Organisation in April this year to investigate the land scam against Vijayvargiya and Mendola and submit the report to the court within 90 days. Suresh Seth, an Indore Congress leader and former minister, had first complained to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the State police that land worth around Rs 100 crore in the Pardeshipura locality (of Indore) was fraudulently allotted to Ramesh Mendola during the period when Kailash Vijayvargiya was the Mayor of Indore Municipal Corporation and Mendola had misappropriated the land with the connivance of Vijayvargiya. As the EOW did not even start an investigation in this high-profile case, Seth approached, with his 220-page petition, the designated court which directed the Lokayukta to investigate the case.
The 90-day period given by the designated court to submit the report was used by the Lokayukta police mostly in harassing Seth rather than in trying to procure/seize from the allegedly non-cooperative officials of the urban administration and development department the documents germane to the inquiry and the designated court had to use some harsh words about the working of the Lokayukta Organisation. It was ironic that the Indore court had to remind the Lokayukta, a retired Supreme Court judge, about the powers to seize documents under the Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta Act. The court, however, allowed, another month to the Lokayukta Organisation to submit the report.
Funny or dishonest?
Now come the High Court notices and the Lokayukta’s strange statement. The Madhya Pradesh High Court has, of late, become an important institution to help the influential corrupt in the State. In some cases, it has intervened to scuttle the investigation in corruption cases at the very initial stages as has been seen in the cases of IAS officers S.R.Mohanty and Vivek Agrawal; the latter is now on the chief minister’s personal staff while Mohanty is the secretary to the department of health and family welfare. Mohanty was allegedly involved in a Rs 700-crore scam and Uma Bharati, then chief minister, had entrusted the investigation to EOW after obtaining the opinion of then Advocate-General Ravi Nandan Singh who had found Mohanty’s doing as “an act of conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and cheating”. The alacrity with which the High Court had quashed EOW’s FIR against Mohanty could be considered a sort of a record. Vivek Agrawal was booked for buying property with an amount disproportionate to his known sources of income. The EOW had scarcely started its investigation when the High Court had intervened to bail out Agrawal.
Looking at the manner in which the hearings are held in our courts in the cases involving influential people, it will not be surprising if several years are taken in deciding the seemingly specious question if the designated court has the power to direct the Lokayukta to investigate the scam. That itself will be a great relief to the influential accused. This is rather a recent phenomenon that the courts sometimes do not allow even an investigation to be held against the influential persons.
Quite astonishing is the Lokayukta’s statement that he does not interfere with the working of his police. Who, pray, asked Prakash Prabhakar Naolekar to interfere with the working of the Lokayukta police? But he is obliged under the law to supervise the working of the Lokayukta police and direct the police officers on to the right direction whenever they strayed, as the Lokayukta police officers are wont to.
The Madhya Pradesh Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Act, 2003, clearly stipulates: “the superintendence of investigation by the Madhya Pradesh Special Police Establishment shall vest in the Lokayukta” and “without prejudice to the generality of the power of superintendence, the Lokayukta may call from the Director, Special Police Establishment, returns and may issue general directions for regulating practice and procedure of investigation to be adopted by the Special Police Establishment”. In the light of this unequivocal provision empowering the Lokayukta to review the investigation of a case and guide the investigators, Naolekar was being either funny or dishonest when he said that he knew about the case only from the reports in newspapers; more likely the latter.
Will PCC spokesman K.K.Mishra have the last laugh in the Sugnidevi College land scam case? Soon after the Indore court had directed the Lokayukta to investigate the allegations against Vijayvargiya and Mendola, Mishra had expressed the doubt about justice being done in the case because of the close relationship between the families of Vijayvargiya and Naolekar. The PCC leader had even expressed his misgivings in a letter to Naolekar.