Bombay HC Asks Police To Probe Alleged Scam By Sitting Minister In Farmer Loan Waiver Scheme [Read Judgment]
The Bombay High Court (Aurangabad bench) has asked the police to register a case and investigate allegations against the management of a sugar factory in Ahmednagar, which is run by Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, state cabinet minister for housing, for allegedly diverting funds procured as a result of a farmer loan waiver scheme floated by the state government.
The sugar factory under scanner is named M/s Padmashri Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana.
The division bench of Justice TV Nalawade and Justice RV Avachat at Aurangabad bench expressed dissatisfaction at the manner in which investigation in the said case was going on after perusing through a report submitted by an officer of the rank of Assistant Police Inspector.
According to petitioner Dadasaheb Pawar, Vikhe Patil was the director of sugar factory at the time when loan was waived by the State. He was also the Minister for Agriculture at the time.
Petitioner alleged that Vikhe Patil's sugar factory had availed loan facility from Union Bank of India and Bank of India for distributing the money amongst farmers for basal dose in sugarcane cultivation. The said loan along with interest amount edto Rs 9 crore (approximately). However, State Government decided to waive agricultural loans of farmers by introducing a scheme in the year 2009. Then, the aforesaid banks submitted a proposal to the State Government for waiving loan obtained by the sugar factory for distributing the same amongst the farmers. The State Government waived the loan amount due towards the loan account in the aforesaid banks on October 29, 2009.
Thereafter, during audit by the Co-operative Department, certain documents like details of farmers, account transactions of individual farmers etc were sought by the State Government from the two banks and sugar factory. They were unable to supply the aforesaid documents. Therefore, the State Government directed both the banks to deposit the amount waived under the loan waiver scheme with interest at the rate of 6 percent per annum from the date of deposit of amount by the State Government till the date of returning the said amount.
However, both the banks through the sugar factory deposited an amount of Rs 9 crores (without 6 percent interest as directed by the State Government) after lapse of 5 years i.e. on July 10, 2014. The petitioners filed several complaints before the police seeking registration of FIR since the year 2015 on the ground that the sugar factory has cheated the members/shareholders, ie farmers by obtaining loan in their name and further getting it waived under the loan waiver scheme of the government.
Public Prosecutor AB Girase appeared for the State and SB Talekar appeared on behalf of the petitioner.
Court was dissatisfied with the police's probe so far and said-
"In view of the afore-stated background, this Court had expressed that the present investigating agency was wasting its time and protracting the things by collecting information, which was already available and on the basis of which, inference is also available."
After taking instructions, Public Prosecutor submitted that in future, investigation will be conducted by an officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. Also, within fifteen days progress will be actually shown in the investigation and the report of progress will be submitted to the Court, Girase said.
Thus, the bench noted-
"This Court hopes that without getting influenced by anybody, the new Investigating Officer will make investigation fairly. In such cases, courage needs to be shown by the Investigating Officer, otherwise progress in such matter is not possible."