Activist Anjali Damani approached the Bombay High Court on Thursday, challenging a special court order discharging Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal and his family members in a case of alleged corruption in the construction of a new Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi.
The activist has sought for the HC to quash the special court's order discharging Bhujbal and others in the case and to direct the court to conclude trial in the case expeditiously. The special court hearing cases related to the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) had in September 2021 discharged senior NCP leader Bhujbal and seven others, including his son Pankaj and nephew Sameer, after observing that there was no substantial material to suggest that the accused persons got illegal gratification from the developer appointed to construct the building.
Damania on Thursday filed a revision application in the HC, challenging the lower court's order while claiming that the prosecuting agency (ACB) has not challenged the order of discharge till date. “The case is of grave public interest and is regarding huge corruption of public money. The respondent No. 1 (Chhagan Bhujbal) is currently serving as a minister in the present government of Maharashtra and belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which is a part of the coalition government,” Damania said in her application.
The activist further said she was one of the petitioners who had in 2014 filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the HC highlighting the present case. In 2015, the high court had directed the state ACB to carry out a probe against Bhujbal and others, the application said. Damania in her application alleged that Bhujbal and the other accused hatched a criminal conspiracy to cause wrongful loss to the public exchequer.
The application further claimed that a private builder was appointed for government projects, including the construction of the Maharashtra Sadan without offering any bids and the Bhujbals received kickbacks for the same. Damania also said the special court ignored the evidence submitted by the ACB which showed that Bhujbal had misused his official position and taken an active part in favouring a private builder.
The activist has sought for the high court to quash the special court's order discharging Bhujbal and others in the case and to direct the court to conclude trial in the case expeditiously. Her application will come up for hearing in due course of time. The case relates to a 2005-2006 deal that the NCP leader allegedly gave to the firm, when he was the PWD minister. According to the ACB, the contractors had "earned 80 per cent profit" in the construction of Maharashtra Sadan (the state guest house) in Delhi, while as per the government circular, such contractors were entitled to "only 20 per cent gain". The ACB had claimed the original cost estimate for the Maharashtra Sadan was Rs 13.5 crore, but it was later increased to Rs 50 crore.
The state agency had alleged that the Bhujbals got Rs 13.5 crore in kickbacks from the firm, which earned a profit of about Rs 190 crore from the construction of the Maharashtra Sadan and other PWD works.
-With PTI Inputs