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December 15, 2000 - December 16, 2000

3 IOC officials charged in diesel scam denied bail Saturday, December 16, 2000

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court rejected the bail plea of three Indian Oil Corporation officials -- U N Pai, A Majumdar and M L Varudkar -- and concluded that prima facie, the three officials have committed offences and are involved in the multi-crore high-speed diesel (HSD) scam.

Rejecting a petition seeking bail, Justice D H Waghela observed that the investigation was at a crucial stage of unearthing the details of a large-scale scam and held that apprehension was reasonable that if the accused were released on bail the investigation would be hampered.

The court also added that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the applicants are involved in serious offences punishable with sentences upto imprisonment for life.

The petitioners who were arrested on October 10, had contended that they were managers (sales) and had issued as a part of their duty the delivery orders for release of HSD and that the allegations against them were vague.

The court upheld the argument of the CBI point advocate Mukesh Shah and opined that "There is no dispute about the fact that the delivery orders for thousands of kilolitres of HSD were signed and issued by the applicants without the approval of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and without the recommendations of the Technical Advisory Committee (TEC) in respect of particular firms".

The court pointed out that there is also material indicating the use of forged documents and delivery of HSD in the name of defunct private firms with the involvement of touts, mediators and certain transport operators. It said that the such systematic activity has been continued over a long period of time causing huge loss of revenue to the public exchequer and corresponding benefit to the accused.

It was evident, the court observed, that the investigation has been halted and hampered and even after the court orders the CBI needs to collect, analyse and scrutinise a large number of documents and interrogate many officers and individuals.

Meanwhile, a special court remanded four accused in judicial custody on Thursday. The accused were arrested from Mumbai by the Central Bureau of Investigation sleuths on December 2 and were in CBI remand till Thursday.

Special Judge AJ Bhatt sent the four accused - factory owners Rajesh P Ghatalia, Atul P Ghatalia, Narendra Shah and transporter Ramji T Nanda - to the Sabarmati Central Jail for 14 days.

The CBI said during the custodial interrogation the accused have disclosed vital information regarding the conspiracy through which several private persons in connivance with the state-owned oil companies and sales tax department illegally siphoned out several lakh kilolitres of HSD at concessional rates in the open market.

Rajesh Ghatalia and Atul Ghatalia were directors of Shalimar Chemical and Aarey Drugs, respectively .The two disclosed that they lifted the HSD through a Mumbai based-middleman Khimji Kataria and Rakesh Shah of Vadodara.

Narendra Shah , partner in Bharat Petrochem Corporation, Halol, had disclosed that he had an authorisation for lifting 38,000 litres of HSD from the oil companies. He said the delivery orders for lifting HSD were given to Kataria and Rajesh Shah.

The CBI informed the court that Nanda disclosed that he was operating fictitious company named Vinayak Transport having, with fake documents and address. He said he never owned any trucks or tanker.

The CBI had registered a case pertaining to the scam in May this year. The CBI said the HSD which was sold for use as raw material was not actually used for the declared use and was diverted elsewhere, causing a loss nearly Rs 100 crore to the government. The special court however, later observed that the scam was likely to cross the Rs 1000-crore mark.

With the arrest of these four people, the CBI till date, has arrested 21 persons.

Power board to raise Rs 500 cr through bonds Saturday, December 16, 2000

VADODARA: The Gujarat Electricity Board has decided to raise Rs 200 crore with an option to retain further over subscription upto Rs 300 crore through the issue of non-convertible bonds for meeting capital requirements and working capital.

GEB member finance M M Srivastava hopes the board would get a good response to the issue. In the past, the GEB has managed to raise good amount through such issues and private placements.

The issue closes on January 25, 2001 and trustee to the issue is Central Bank of India, debenture trustee section, Mumbai.

Three more murders in Surat Saturday, December 16, 2000

SURAT: Three more people were murdered in the city on Thursday night. A double murder took place at Lal Darwaza in Mahidarpura where a man was stoned to death, while another was stabbed with a sword by three extortionists.

Deputy commissioner of police (North) A K Pandya said the three accused - Kishore Deshmukh, Yogesh Deshmukh and Manoj Pullik - have been arrested.

The victim, Raju alias Rajlo Baro (21), was involved in a murder sometime back and had served a sentence, while the other victim Dhamo Marathi (17) was his accomplice.

Raju had tried to extort Rs 8,500 from Deshmukh, according to the statement made by the accused. In the ensuing scuffle, Raju was stoned to death while Marathi succumbed to the stab injuries, he said.

In another incident, one Mahendra Singh, was beaten to death with iron rods by Vazir Shah, his son Arif and factory worker Ghulam at Udna. The accused suspected the victim of having committed a theft in their factory, the police added.

HC stays proceedings against Pathak, Bhatt Friday, December 15, 2000

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court has stayed proceedings against former Health Minister Ashok Bhatt, former Union Minister of State for Defence Production Harin Pathak and seven others accused of provoking riots and killing a constable on April 22, 1985.

Admitting a miscellaneous criminal application filed by the accused, Justice AK Trivedi has fixed the final date for hearing of the case on December 26. The accused filed an application in the High Court seeking to quash the complaint filed against them and having charges of committing murder of a police constable named Laxmansingh in the year 1985 riots, near Chhabila Hanuman in Raipur area of the city.

Senior advocate SB Vakil, appearing on behalf of the accused, took contention that the complaint filed under Section 188 of IPC along with other charges is bad in law in as much as the procedure provided under Section 195 of the Criminal Procedural Code was not followed by the police.

The stay will mean that all the proceedings, including those in the sessions court as well as the previous order of the High Court to find and produce the report of the Court Inquiry Commission which had investigated the episode.

After the sessions court framed charges against the two ministers and others, the ministers had resigned.

Earlier, the Gujarat High Court had appointed a commission to inquire into the matter. It has been charged that while the commission was inquiring into the matter, police constable Laxman Jabbabhai Desai was attacked and killed by a mob with sharp weapons, while another, Ratiram Yadav, was injured.

Apart from the ministers, charges were also framed against BJP corporator Mayur Dave, former corporator Ghanshyam Mehta, Kiran Shah, Nansha Thakore, Babubhai Mehtabsingh Thakore, Dhruvkumar Vyas, Madhukar Vyas, Paresh Dhanadekar and Vijay Shah alias 'Laambo' have been accused of provoking a mob leading to attack on policemen and Home Guards personnel on duty.

Gujarat needs Rs 1,853 cr to fight drought Friday, December 15, 2000

GANDHINAGAR: The state government on Wednesday said that the total amount needed to fight drought over the next six months would be to the tune of Rs 1,853 crore and not Rs 1,000 crore as thought earlier.

Talking to newspersons, Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel said the new figure was arrived at after the district-wise master plan for 12,240 drought-affected villages was made available to the state government last week.

"We have already sent across a preliminary memorandum to the Central government about the amount the state will need," the chief minister said adding, "We have simultaneously put into gear all drought relief measures without waiting for these to be declared in March as normally is the case."

Patel's principal secretary P K Laheri said the state has five sources of funds. First, the state calamity relief fund of this year; second, the amount made available in the fund's future budgets; third, the Central funds for rare and severe calamities; fourth, programmes for rural development funded by the Centre; and last, for special doles. He agreed, "The funds made available for rare and severe calamities fund has been scrapped under the new 11th Finance Commission recommendations. Four states have opposed it. It would therefore need a parliamentary nod."

Laheri said, "We have already taken Rs 300 crore as advance from the Centre. We have also demanded another Rs 200 crore to be disbursed immediately." The state's 5,470 villages have been declared "fully scarcity-hit" and another 6,770 "semi-scarcity hit", making two-thirds of the state drought-affected.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet on Wednesday okayed a detailed plan for drought relief. This includes measures to provide emergency water supply and fodder delivery to all the affected areas with the Railways agreeing to provide free-of-cost service; the Central agricultural ministry's direction not to allow any fodder to move out of the state; giving all the rights to the district collectors to provide fodder and water on war-footing; declaring Rs 40 as minimum wages at relief sites and extra doles to the disabled etc.

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