HC eye on soil scam

The high court today directed the Bihar government to file a report within six weeks on action taken in the soil scam case in which RJD chief Lalu Prasad and his eldest son Tej Pratap Yadav have been made accused.

By Nishant Sinha in Patna
  • Published 14.10.17
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Patna, Oct. 13: The high court today directed the Bihar government to file a report within six weeks on action taken in the soil scam case in which RJD chief Lalu Prasad and his eldest son Tej Pratap Yadav have been made accused.

A public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the high court on April 7 seeking an independent inquiry either by the CBI or a judicial probe into the case involving alleged purchase of soil of more than Rs 90 lakh by the Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, Patna, from the firm associated with the then state environment and forest minister Tej Pratap Yadav.

The PIL filed by high court advocate Manibhushan Pratap Sengar also has names of chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, principal secretaries of the environment and forest, and urban development departments and director of Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, Patna, Nand Kishore, as other parties to the case. The report carried by The Telegraph on the issue in its edition dated April 5 was attached as an annexure to the PIL to the court.

The court today directed the state government as well as the departments concerned to file the report of inquiry, held so far, in the case.

A division bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Anil Kumar Upadhyay directed the state to file a detailed report entailing what investigations have been done so far in the case, and what action have been taken against the guilty persons.

The bench also directed the government to inform the court as to what violations were made by the accused under different acts and under which sections of the Pollution Control Board Act, the Environment Protection Act and Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Sengar told the court that only an impartial inquiry can establish on whose permission the fund of Rs 90 lakh was withdrawn from the Bihar Wildlife Conservation Fund to purchase soil, as the funds were meant to be only spent for conservation of wildlife and not for purchasing the soil.

Sengar also told the court that only a fair inquiry could make out whether there was any necessity of buying soil by Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park in the first place.

Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park had earlier claimed that the soil purchase exercise was undertaken for the beautification of the zoo.

Contradicting this, the bench was informed that it needs to be found out whether the park has got the authority to purchase soil without following any norms or bylaws which involves issuance of a tender as no tenders were floated for this particular deal. Again, buying soil from a firm associated with the environment and forest minister clearly amounts to conflict of interest, the petitioner has told the court.

Further, an annexure was also attached with the PIL which says that the environment and forest department headed by Tej Pratap had drafted a bogus beautification scheme for the Patna zoo to facilitate the purchase of soil.

The other point raised by Sengar in his petition was that on the plot owned by the Lara Projects Pvt Ltd, at Saguna Mor, Patna, in which both of Lalu's sons, Tej Pratap and the then deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, were directors, a mall was being constructed and for this the land was dug up to create an underground space and that Patna zoo bought soil which was dug up from this very site.

This further amounts to conflict of interest as both Lalu's sons - Tej Pratap and deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav - are on the board of directors of the aforesaid company, the court has been informed.

The bench, in its directive on Friday, also ordered the state government to submit a report in this regard within six weeks.

The construction work of the mall has since been stopped by the Union environment and forest ministry. The state government in its affidavit earlier to the court had also accepted that prior environment clearances were not obtained for the mall.