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Bombay High Court Seeks Minister Nitin Raut's Response On Alleged Illegal Use Of Chartered Flights During Lockdown

Sharmeen Hakim
15 July 2021 3:28 AM GMT
Bombay High Court Seeks Minister Nitin Rauts Response On Alleged Illegal Use Of Chartered Flights During Lockdown
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The Bombay High Court, on Wednesday, directed Maharashtra's Energy Minister Nitin Raut, among others, to respond to a PIL by state BJP media cell chief - Vishwas Pathak - seeking directions to Raut to reimburse the state power companies over Rs 43.55 lakh, allegedly spent on his"illegal" use of chartered flights during the lockdown last year. "Chartered flights cannot be taken by...

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The Bombay High Court, on Wednesday, directed Maharashtra's Energy Minister Nitin Raut, among others, to respond to a PIL by state BJP media cell chief - Vishwas Pathak - seeking directions to Raut to reimburse the state power companies over Rs 43.55 lakh, allegedly spent on his"illegal" use of chartered flights during the lockdown last year.

"Chartered flights cannot be taken by any minister at State expense except with the approvalof the Chief Minister of the State. Hence, Respondent No. 2 (Raut) misused his position as ex officio Chairman of MSEB to make MSEB…..pay for his luxurious chartered flights", the petition said.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni heard the petition filed through FF and Associates on Wednesday. And after the petitioners placed the affidavit of service on record, the bench directed the respondents to file their reply affidavits.

The respondents include the State, Nitin Raut, Maharashtra State Electricity Holding Company Ltd, Maharashtra State Power Generation Co Ltd, Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Co Ltd, Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission and the Union of India.

The case will now be heard on July 28, 2021.

The petition alleges that during the lockdown, when the country's highest officials were performing their duties from remote areas, Raut "flouted the existing norms on multiple occasions" and took the liberty to travel around the country during the lockdown for personal reasons under the pretext of administrative work.

"It appears that the said chartered flights have been paid for by State-owned companies which are publicly funded… each of these payments made by MSEB, MAHAGENCO, MAHATRANSCO, and MAHAVITRAN at the behest of and under pressure from Respondent 2 (Raut) is a clear abuse of position and misuse of power," the plea states.

The petitioners claimed that in response to an RTI query, MSEB said that Raut had used chartered flights for two trips in June and July 2020 for "Important Administrative Work," amounting to Rs. 14.45 lakh.

However, the Department of Industry, Energy and Labour said they have no such proposal on record.

Further RTI queries reveal that the other subsidiaries had spent Rs. 29.10 lakh on three trips for Raut in July and September 2020.

The petition alleges that MAHATRANSCO and MAHAVITRAN did not provide the information sought. It also discloses that the individual who filed the RTI could not go for a hearing regarding his complaint owing to his ill health.

The plea, therefore, seeks that Raut should be directed to reimburse the amount of Rs. 43.55 lakh along with 18% interest. Those companies that have not disclosed the amounts used for chartered flights may be directed to do so, the plea adds.

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