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CBI allowed to chargesheet ex-ministers Thursday, December 13, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The CBI will now be able to file chargesheet against two former ministers - Jasabhai Barad and Vitthal Shah - as well as three IAS officers - Vijaysinh Parmar, A M Bhardwaj and D K Rao - accused in the Rs 6.4 crore transport contract scam.

Justice M H Kadri of the Gujarat high court on Tuesday rejected criminal miscellaneous applications filed by the scam accused seeking to quash and set aside the FIR filed against them by the state government.

The court held that the decision taken by these public servants, in allowing increase in the existing transport contract rates for 1997-98 and further extending the tenure of the contract March 31, 1999 'was arbitrary, unjustified and violative of the condition of the transport contract'.

In its judgement the court observed that these public servants abused their official position and entered into a criminal conspiracy with the transport contractors to cause undue burden to the public exchequer.

The court also pointed out that to perpetuate the offence, the established procedure of administration, rules of business and financial management were deliberately violated. It therefore amounted to offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, misconduct and abuse of official position.

The court then observed that rise in diesel price did not cause the escalation of prices of other components and that the representation of the transporters' association on basis of which prices were increased, was not processed properly.

Assistant director was bypassed in processing the file to avoid a dissent opinion. There was no precedent of hike in the transport rates in tune with the present hike. The government had alternatives to counter such a movement than bowing to the pressure of a few transporters, the judgement said.

The court observed that the representation did not reflect the views of the association in true sense. All the signatories were not genuine, some were forgeries and it was concluded that it was not a true reflection of the views of the transport contractors' association.

Gujarat government had filed a first investigation report after an internal inquiry that during 1997-98, huge monetary loss was caused to the state and Gujarat State Civil Supplies Corporation (GSCSC) by the accused. They had awarded a disproportionate hike in the contractual rate of transportation of levy sugar and food grains for the public distribution system and thus allowed ineligible gains to the transporters.

This was despite the fact that the contract did not provide for revision of rates due to fuel hike or other reasons and though upwardly revision to the tune of 30 per cent was given after a diesel rate hike.

Advocate general SN Shelat with additional public prosecutor Samir Dave appeared for the state and advocate MR Shah additional standing counsel for the CBI.

The accused were then holding offices as minister and senior bureaucrats in the Shankersinh Vaghela government. Barad was minister for food, civil supplies and consumer affairs, Shah was holding the same portfolio as minister of state. Bhardwaj was additional chief secretary in food and civil supplies department, Parmar was director of the GSCSC and DK Rao was director food and civil supplies.

The state government had in December 1998, sought a CBI probe into the case and the Centre had issued the notification last November, 2000.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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