Agusta deal: SC asks searching questions to Chhattisgarh

 The Supreme Court today posed searching questions to the Chhattisgarh government on the purchase of a AgustaWestland helicopter for VIP use in 2006-07 and asked what was the “interest” of Chief Minister Raman Singh’s son in this.

A bench comprising Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit asked the state about the allegations of irregularities in the purchase of helicopter and foreign bank accounts purportedly linked to the chief minister’s son, on which a probe has been sought in the petitions filed before it.

“What is the interest of Abhishek Singh, who also happens to be the son of the chief minister, in this? You have to satisfy us on that,” the bench asked senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, who was representing the state.

Jethmalani said the allegations were “unwarranted insinuations” and there was no evidence to substantiate these claims.

“These are all reckless allegations in the petition,” he told the bench which reserved its verdict on the pleas filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan and others seeking investigation into the alleged irregularities in the purchase of the helicopter.

The petitioners have alleged that in July 2008, a bank account in the name of ‘Abhishak Singh’ was opened in British Virgin Islands, and on August 1, 2008, one of the firms which was purportedly involved in the deal was wound up.

They have alleged that there was a “strong possibility” that the money paid as commission in this deal has ultimately reached to the foreign bank account.

During the arguments today, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioners, said the proposal of the state in December 2006 said that helicopters firms should be invited to make their representations, but later, no company was called and a tender was issued only for a AgustaWestland chopper.

He claimed that an extra amount of 1.324 million dollars was paid to a firm, Sharp Ocean, over and above the cost of the helicopter

which was 5.246 million dollars.

When he raked up the issue as to why only AgustaWestland was selected, the bench said, “it is a matter of their (state) choice”.

However, Jethmalani said officials of state government had negotiated with representatives of Sharp Ocean, which was the authorised agent for AgustaWestland in Hongkong in February 2007 and the price of the chopper came down and they also got its delivery soon.

He said that due to the negotiations, the price came down from 6.2 million dollars to 6 million dollars and the chopper was delivered to the state on December 20, 2007. He said there was nothing wrong in the entire deal.

Meanwhile, the petitioners claimed that Chhattisgarh had paid 6.57 million dollars for the purchase of the helicopter, while Jharkhand had paid 5.591 million dollars to AgustaWestland for the same chopper bought at the same time.

Bhushan said that even today, the Chhattisgarh government was hiring other helicopters for its use.

The apex court had earlier said it was only concerned as to whether any “fraud or hanky-panky” was committed in the deal, while making it clear that it was not questioning the choice of the helicopter.

It has also directed the state to place before it the original files relating to the deal.

No reason to resist setting up of tribunal on Mahanadi: SC

No reason to resist setting up of tribunal on Mahanadi: SC
No reason to resist setting up of tribunal on Mahanadi: SC

The Supreme Court today told the Centre that there was “no valid purpose” in resisting the setting up of a tribunal to deal with the dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the Mahanadi river water-sharing dispute.

The court said it was “disappointed” that the Centre had not yet issued a notification on the constitution of a tribunal to deal with the ongoing issue despite having submitted before the top court in October that a decision would be taken in this regard by November 19.

However, the Centre told a bench comprising Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao that Odisha had not participated in the negotiations on the issue.

“Are you (Centre) saying if they (Odisha) do not come for negotiations, a tribunal cannot be constituted,” the bench asked.

Odisha has been opposing Chhattisgarh’s plans to build 13 barrages and seven pick up weirs (small dams) across Mahanadi river, in a plan to extract more water. Odisha has said this would adversely affect the interests of its farmers.

Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, representing the Centre, referred to a 1983 agreement between Madhya Pradesh and Odisha and said there was a mechanism to deal with the issue.

“We are disappointed at this. We were told that you will issue a notification,” the bench said, adding “you had made a statement that a notification will be issued for constitution of a tribunal. You had made this statement before the court.”

When the Centre told the court that Odisha was not coming forward for negotiation in the matter, the bench observed, “failure of negotiation has nothing to do with it. Odisha is saying they do not want to negotiate. If they are not coming forward, it is failure of negotiation”.

Nadkarni told the bench that they had already filed a written statement before the court in the matter and a mechanism already existed.

The counsel representing Odisha told the court that no negotiation could be done in the matter and a tribunal should be constituted.

Chhattisgarh’s counsel countered the submissions of Odisha and said they do not want a tribunal in the matter and, as per the 1983 agreement, a mechanism was already there which should be exercised.

“We do not see any valid purpose in you (Centre) resisting the appointment of tribunal,” the bench told the Centre.

However, when the Centre said it would argue the matter, the bench posted the case for hearing on January 16.

In its written statement before the court, the Centre has said that the ongoing dispute should be sorted out through negotiations between the concerned parties.

The Centre has also said they were in the process of finalising a bill to constitute a composite tribunal which would deal with all the inter-state river water disputes in the country.

The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti on March 14 this year.

The Bill proposes to set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, for adjudication of water disputes, if a dispute is not resolved through the Disputes Resolution Committee.

The Odisha government had moved the court in December last year seeking an order asking Chhattisgarh to stop its construction work in projects on the upstream of Mahanadi.

( Source – PTI )

Raipur court admits plea against Chhattisgarh CM

A local court on Wednesday admitted a petition against Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and two others in connection with land allocation to Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd (BALCO).

The petition was filed by former Minister and senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel in the Chhattisgarh district court last month.

Besides Singh, former Chief Secretary P Joy Oommen and BALCO Chief Executive Officer Gunjan Gupta have been named in the petition filed under IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act.

The matter will now come up for hearing on September 22, court sources said.

In the petition, Baghel has alleged corruption and cheating by the Chhattisgarh administration in regularisation of land illegally occupied by BALCO in Korba which led to a loss of Rs 140 crore to the state exchequer.

The Congress leader has accused Singh and Oommen of entering into a criminal conspiracy and causing loss to the Government in land allotment to the company.

Source: PTI

Supreme Court stops Chhattisgarh from using tribals in Salwa Judum

The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the Chhattisgarh government for using tribals as special police officers (SPOs) in its Salwa Judum counter-insurgency operation against the Maoists , saying this should immediately stop.

An apex court bench of Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice S.S Nijjar directed the Chhattisgarh government to immediately “cease and desist” from recruiting tribals as SPOs for Salwa Jadum.The court said that the use of such ill-trained and unqualified tribals as SPOs was against the moral and constituional mandate of the government.The court directed the Chhattisgarh government to recover all the firearms given to SPOs along with the ammunition. It directed the central government to ensure that its finances are not used for funding such illegal activities.

It also ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into an attack on social activist Swami Agnivesh in a tribal area of the state March 23, 2011.The court order came in the wake of a petition by a Delhi University professor Nandini Sunder seeking a ban on Salwa Jadum activities and relief and rehabilitation of the internally displaced tribals.

17 Chhattisgarh judges forced to retire

In a rare action, as many as 17 judges in Chhattisgarh were forced to accept compulsory retirement after an internal inquiry indicted them on charges of corruption, law department sources said Monday.

The state government issued the order after the law department report said the judges were guilty of graft.

The judges include the district and sessions judge posted at Ambikapur, headquarters of Surguja district, and the additional district and sessions judge at Dantewada

NHRC notice to Chhattisgarh over attack on Swami Agnivesh

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to Chhattisgarh’s chief secretary and police chief over the alleged attack last week on social activist Swami Agnivesh by members of the Salwa Judum civil militia.

“The commission has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report alleging that a large group comprising special police officers of Chhattisgarh police and members of the Salwa Judum attacked Swami Agnivesh on March 26, 2011 as he attempted to deliver relief to a village reportedly torched by the security forces in Dantewada district,” a statement said Wednesday.

“Considering the issues raised in the report, the commission today observed that the entire incident is a matter of great concern, and issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Chhattisgarh calling for their factual reports within four weeks in the matter,” it added.

The report referred to the aftermath of an incident in which three men were killed, three women were sexually assaulted and about 300 homes, granaries and woodsheds were torched by the security forces during a five day anti-Maoist operation in the villages of Tarmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli in Dantewada, an NHRC official said.

Swami Agnivesh had gone to the affected villages to deliver clothes, blankets and other relief material, when he was attacked twice in six hours by a mob at a Salwa Judum camp at Dornapal, the official added.

Salwa Judum is an anti-Maoist movement supported by the Chhattisgarh government.

Binayak Sen case: Apex Court issues notice to Chhattisgarh

An apex court bench of Justice H.S. Bedi and Justice C.K. Prasad issued notice after counsel appearing for Sen mentioned the matter in the court.

The notice is returnable in four weeks. Sen was convicted for the offences involving sedition, waging war against the state and hatching a criminal conspiracy.

He was convicted and awarded life imprisonment by the trial court in December last year and his plea for bail was rejected by the Chhattisgarh High Court in February this year.


No rape by cops, girls tell Chhattisgarh court

Two days after accusing four policemen of gang raping them in a police station complex in Chhattisgarhs Raigarh district, the two victims Friday retracted their earlier statements in a court Saturday.

The girls told a local court at Gharghora town Friday that they were not raped by policemen.

The girls, one of them a minor, belong to Dharmjaigarh yown where residents were outraged late Thursday by the alleged rape of the girls by four policemen Nov 9.

The girls escorted by dozens of angry local residents registered a first information report (FIR) at Dharmjaigarh police station against the identified four policemen. The town is located in Raigarh district, about 280 km from Raipur.

During the court proceedings Friday, the two refused to identify the accused policemen when Raigarh police chief Rahul Sharma produced all policemen who were on duty Nov 9, before the girls for identification.

The girls have also refused to undergo medical tests.

The rape charges had on Thursday sparked severe criticism against police force and Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar had reacted to the incident an “extremely shocking” and promised “total justice to the victims”.

Now residents of Dharmjaigarh town were reported to be embarrassed after girls refused to substantiate their charges that they made in an FIR that they went to see off two relatives at the bus stop on the night of Nov 9 when a police patrol team picked the men up and took them to the Dharmjaigarh police station.

The girls reached the police station to find out why their relatives were nabbed but were forcibly taken to a house in the complex by two policemen who raped them. They then called two other colleagues over the phone, who too raped them, they alleged.