With an eye to a crucial hearing in the Supreme Court later this month, the Goa government has made its first move to prosecute those indicted in a Rs.35,000 crore illegal mining scam in the state.
The probe has been heavily criticised by the opposition as well as green activists, who have accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government of colluding with the powerful mining lobby.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Nilu Desai, of the Crime Branch, told reporters late Monday that an FIR has been filed on the basis of a complaint by the department for mines and geology.
“An FIR has been filed by us after going through the voluminous complaint of around 1,000 pages,” Desai said.
A mines department official said the FIR was part of the government’s strategy to put on record the action taken by it in the massive illegal mining scam, a case related to which is being heard by the apex court.
“The hearing is on Aug 29. The FIR will be part of our detailed affidavit to the Supreme Court about the nature of action taken by the Goa government against illegal mining. It will also convey the seriousness with which the state government is taking the matter,” a senior mining ministry official told IANS.
The FIR, police said, has been filed based on the findings of the Justice M.B. Shah Commission, which had unearthed the Rs.35,000 crore illegal mining scam, as well as the report of the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC), which had also probed the scam in which politicians and bureaucrats as well as mining companies have been indicted.
Ironically, the FIR is in complete contradiction with one of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s first statements after he assumed power in March 2012.
Parrikar had then criticised the Shah report, which is now the basis of his government’s FIR, saying that several findings of the former Supreme Court judge, which had used Global Positioning System (GPS) to track down illegal mining were erroneous.
“This in turn, can make a difference of up to 120 to 300 metres in the calculations,” he had said.
In fact, the Goa government had last year also formed its own committee headed by retired High Court judge R.M.S. Khandeparkar to look into the findings of Justice Shah.
While the Khandeparkar committee has not even had a single meeting since its formation, the Congress has consistently maintained that the committee was a sham aimed at delaying action against those accused in the mining scam.
“When there is already a CEC in place, the appointment of the justice Khandeparkar committee to selectively analyse the report is another act to fool the people of Goa,” Congress spokesperson Reginaldo Lourenco told IANS.
Two Congress chief ministers, several politicians bureaucrats as well as mining magnates have been accused of illegal mining in Goa for over a decade, by the Shah Commission report.
A petition filed by senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan as well as a local NGO has demanded stringent action against all those involved in Goa’s mining scam.