Ranchi, March 4: Jharkhand High Court has pulled up the state for shielding absconding officers being probed for their role in a multi-crore seed scam and ordered the administration to immediately withdraw all perks to the accused, who include a former minister named in the FIR.
A division bench of justices D.N. Patel and S. Chandrashekhar, while hearing a PIL filed by Jitendra Kumar on the 2009 scam, directed chief secretary S.K. Choudhary today to withdraw official vehicles, mobile phones, landlines, laptops, data cards and accommodation provided to former agriculture minister Nalin Soren and other officials in the department.
On July 7, 2009, the vigilance court ordered that FIRs be lodged against former minister Soren and others after a resident of Ranchi, Vineet Kachchap, filed a complaint petition.
He alleged that the minister and the then agriculture director had ordered the purchase of implements, huge quantities of vegetable seeds, fertilisers and pesticides far in excess of requirements. Also, the seeds were bought without bidding or floating tenders.
Many of the items were procured against various state schemes when no such scheme was ever implemented in Jharkhand.
According to one such scheme, 930 wells, each 40-feet deep and 20-feet in diameter, were to be dug in 180 blocks across the state. But investigations revealed that although the wells were not to specification, money had been sanctioned and released.
The court was annoyed to note that several influential people — their names figure in an affidavit filed by vigilance department — had not been arrested.
Besides Soren, the vigilance department has named as accused several agriculture department officials, including Rajesh Prasad, A.K. Mishra, Arun Kumar, Piyush Kujur, Anil Kumar, Dinesh Prasad Sharma, Anirudh Kumar, Ajeshwar Prasad Singh and Bhawesh Narayan Thakur.
Investigating officer Shailendra Kumar Burnwal told the court that the seed scam was pegged at about Rs 46 crore as per the FIR, but its true value would emerge after investigations were completed.
In his explanation, Burnwal said that despite several requests, reminders and notices, as many as 110 BDOs and 14 district agriculture officers (DAO) were yet to send in their reports.
The bench granted 10 days time to the BDOs and DAOs to furnish their reports on the status of construction of wells and utilisation of funds and ordered Burnwal to arrest any government officer who refused to co-operate with the investigations.
The court also directed secretaries of personnel and agriculture departments to ensure that their officers co-operated with the investigation.
The next hearing has been scheduled for March 18.