Finally, ACB starts probe in Rs400-cr fisheries scam
Minister Purushottam Solanki is one of the accused in the scam related to award of illegal fishing contracts.
He had allegedly handed out illegal fishing contracts in 58 reservoirs of Gujarat.
This development comes a year after Gujarat High Court (HC) gave the green light to conduct probe against the minister under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).
In an order dated May 21, Gandhinagar’s special ACB court handed over the probe into the fisheries scam to ACB after Gandhinagar police failed to make any major headway in the matter. The chief of Gandhinagar police, who was in charge of the investigation, had sought extension three times but did not do much in way of the investigation.
The special ACB court judge, GK Upadhyay, was hearing an application filed by complainant Ishaaq Maradia – objecting to Gandhinagar police’s plea for a fourth extension to conclude the probe. ACB too was directed to submit its report before November 29 this year.
“The ACB recently started inquiry in the corruption case lodged against the minister and have started recording statements of the key witnesses,” said Mukul Sinha, counsel to Maradia.
“The Gandhinagar police had done nothing but take the statements of a couple of people and didn’t even register a statement of the minister,” he added. “We are still not satisfied as the state police may come under the influence of the government. We may file a petition before Gujarat HC to hand over the probe (against the minister) to CBI.”
The chain of events is a repercussion of a complaint filed by Maradia in Gujarat HC in 2009 where he had alleged that Solanki, who was then state fisheries minister, was involved in a Rs400-crore scam of illegally granting contracts for fishing in 58 reservoirs of Gujarat.
The state government refused Maradia sanction to prosecute Solanki, following which the businessman moved Gujarat HC for permission to do so. HC, in turn, directed the government to put forth the matter before the cabinet. The state cabinet, too, refused the sanction but Governor Dr Kamla, on July 30, 2012, overruled and sanctioned Solanki’s prosecution under Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).
Maradia then filed an application in the special ACB court demanding criminal prosecution on Solanki under various sections of the PCA.
The court reacted and directed the Gandhinagar SP to inquire the allegations and submit a report by October 6, 2012 but that never happened. Solanki went on to win the state elections in December 2012 and was inducted in the state cabinet as state-level minister of labour & employment.