Friday, December 7, 2012

HC backs Governor nod to prosecute minister Solanki

Gujarat EDN
IE  21SEP2012

Express news service : Ahmedabad, Fri Sep 21 2012, 05:53 hrs
Court says power exercised by Kamla Beniwal not alien to her
THE Gujarat High Court on Thursday dismissed the petition of state fisheries minister Purushottam Solanki challenging Governor Kamla Beniwal’s constitutional right to sanction his prosecution in an alleged Rs 400-crore fishing contracts scam.
Rejecting the petition, a bench of Justice Rajesh H Shukla observed that the power of the governor
granting approval to prosecute the minister was well within the Constitution and her decision was legal.
Justice Shukla further observed that the power exercised by Beniwal was not alien to her as claimed by the minister.
Solanki and the state government had argued that in a parliamentary system, the Council of Ministers is the real executive, not the Governor. They had told the court that the “Governor had acted contrary to the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, which is alien to the Constitution”.
The court, however, observed the exercise of discretion by the Governor in granting sanction was not found erroneous. Citing a Supreme Court’s order, the court said, “...If, in cases where prima facie case is clearly made out, sanction to prosecute high functionaries is refused or withheld, democracy itself will be at stake. It would then lead to a situation where people in power may break the law with impunity safe in the knowledge that they will not be prosecuted as the requisite sanction will not be granted.”
With the assembly elections only a couple of months away, the decision has come as a setback for the Narendra Modi government, which had extended its supported to Solanki.
The minister is allegedly involved in a Rs 400-crore scam that was unearthed by Banaskantha-based trader Ishaq Maradia.
Maradia had moved the High Court in 2008 accusing Solanki of granting fishing contracts without following the tendering process. It was alleged that due to this, the state had incurred a loss of Rs 400 crore in the last one decade.
A year later, the court scrapped all the contracts given by Solanki.
Maradia had sought action against Solanki, following which the court ordered the Governor to decide on the minister’s prosecution in consultation with the government.
However, the Council of Ministers allegedly didn’t sanction his prosecution earlier this year. Subsequently, Maradia moved the court again seeking contempt of court proceedings against the government, including the chief minister, alleging they ignored the Governor while deciding not to take action against Solanki.
Following this, the court in July ordered the government to send the report of its cabinet meeting with regard to prosecuting Solanki to the Governor’s office. The state complied with the order and the Governor found that there were enough evidence to prosecute the minister under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
Last month, Maradia lodged a complaint against the minister with the special anti-corruption court in Gandhinagar, which ordered the local police to investigate the case and submit a report by October 6.