MP Lokayukta licks the dust, once again
Posted October 26, 2010on:
Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta and former Supreme Court judge Prakash Prabhakar Naolekar seems desperate to bail out, with a semblance of legality, industries and commerce minister Kailash Vijayvargiya of the corruption charges but his attempts so far have not succeeded. The State High Court has not provided any relief. Moreover, he has been snubbed by the special court at Indore twice in less than three months.
Rejecting the legal obstacles sought to be created by the Lokayukta Organisation, Indore special judge S.K.Raghuvanshi directed on October 20 the Lokayukta police to submit the charge sheet in the case within four months. The court fixed the next hearing for February 21, 2011.
The complaint against Vijayvargiya and Ramesh Mendola, BJP MLA and Vijayvargiya’s Man Friday, is that they had conspired with Vijay Kothari and Ramesh Sanghvi, partners in the Dhanlaxmi Chemical Industries, to grab the land, measuring three acres, situated next to Sugnidevi College at Pardeshipura in Indore. The government had leased this chunk of the land out of the eight-acre land of the Sugnidevi College campus to Dhanlaxmi Chemical Industries in 1980 on a 30-year lease at an annual lease rent of Rs 2400. The Indore Municipal Corporation, with Kailash Vijayvargiya as its Mayor, permitted sale of this land to Nanda Nagar Griha Nirman Sakh Sanstha, which was headed by Ramesh Mendola, in 2004. Mendola had struck a deal with Vijay Kothari and Manish Sanghvi for the sale of this land for Rs 1.38 crore long before the Municipal Corporation had granted its permission for the sale. The sale deed shows that the land was to be used for educational, health and residential activities.
The petition was moved by veteran Congress leader Suresh Seth to the designated court in Indore after other agencies had refused to entertain his complaint. The special court had directed the Lokayukta Organisation in April to investigate Seth’s allegations and submit a report to the court.
The Lokayukta received the first rebuff when its officials approached the special court after the prescribed three month-period to plead their helplessness as the State government departments had not made available the documents relevant to the investigation. The designated judge had to remind the former Supreme Court judge’s representatives in harsh tones that the Lokayukta had been entrusted with enough powers to summon or seize the documents required. Suresh Seth, the octogenarian complainant who attends the court hearings regularly, intervened to say that he had annexed to the complaint the authenticated copies of all the relevant documents.
When Superintendent of Police (SP) in the Lokayukta Organisation Virendra Singh continued to express their inability to complete the inquiry expeditiously because of the refusal of the government departments to supply the required departments, the judge shot back: “who do you want to save? You have the powers to seize the documents. The law is there if the documents are missing”.
Justice Naolekar’s next move was to challenge the very power of the special court to direct the Lokayukta Organisation to investigate any case. This was done at three levels: in the special court at Indore, in the Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court, and in the principal bench of the High Court at Jabalpur. The Lokayukta Organisation had also urged the special court that Suresh Seth should not be allowed to appear during the hearings in the court till the Lokayukta Organisation had filed the final report.
Ramesh Mendola, an accused in Suresh Seth’s complaint, moved a petition before the Indore bench of the High Court praying that the complaint against him and Vijayvargiya should be quashed as the special judge had no power to direct the Lokayukta Organisation to investigate any complaint. The petition was rejected by a division bench of the High Court.
The same plea was raised before the High Court at Jabalpur in a different case but having bearing on the Vijayvargiya case. The special judge in Bhopal had directed the Lokayukta Organisation, some three years ago, to investigate a complaint of corruption against chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and his wife Sadhna Singh Chauhan – the case is better known as the “dumper scam”. Then Lokayukta Ripusudan Dayal (also a former Supreme Court judge) was apparently more interested in adding to his movable and immovable assets than in investigating corruption charges against those in power. As present Lokayukta Naolekar has also not shown any proclivity towards investigating corruption charges against the BJP ministers, former Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA Kishore Samrite moved a petition in the High Court at Jabalpur seeking a direction to the Lokayukta to expedite the investigation of the “dumper scam” case.
The petition was opposed by the government mainly on two grounds, reportedly at the advice of Lokayukta Naolekar: Kishore Samrite has no locus standi, and the special judge in Bhopal had no power to direct the Lokayukta Organisation to investigate any complaint. The High Court refused to accept the second plea, though it dismissed the petition on the ground that Samrite had no locus standi in the case as he was neither a complainant nor involved in any other way in the case.
Armed with the High Court verdict at two different places, the Indore special judge rejected on October 20 both the pleas of the Lokayukta Organisation. Special judge S.K.Raghuvanshi quoted from the Supreme Court rulings rather than from the recent High Court judgements to buttress the point that a court, designated to hear the Lokayukta cases, has powers to direct the Lokayukta Organisation to investigate any complaint, fix a period within which the investigation should be completed, and also to monitor the progress of the investigation. The judge also did not agree with the Lokayukta Organisation that Suresh Seth should not be allowed to appear during the hearings and ruled that though the complainant has no right to interfere with the investigation but he can certainly submit his point of view to the court.