Saturday, June 17, 2017

HC turns down CBI plea to quash case against scam-tainted railway officers

The Hindu: Mumbai: Saturday, June 17, 2017.
RTI query reveals illegally-run food stalls at CST led to ₹91-lakh loss to the Railways.
The Bombay High Court has disposed of an application filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation to quash the case against seven Central Railway officers accused in an alleged railway scam. The court said the CBI should probe the case according to the order passed by the Special Judge of the CBI court on September 17, 2013.
Railway activist Ajay Bose had filed an query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act after learning about alleged mismanagement in the operation of catering stalls at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in the city. The special CBI court in its order directed the CBI to investigate the matter and submit a report. However, the CBI filed an application in the High Court seeking quashing of the case. Mr. Bose said, “It is clear from the judgment that the CBI had to register an FIR against the errant officers.”
Mr. Bose alleged that the officers of the Mumbai Division of the Central Railway swindled crores of rupees resulting in a major loss to the Railways. Mr. Bose said he has obtained documents under the RTI revealing that the Railways incurred losses to the tune of ₹91 lakh because of the corrupt officers.
The seven accused Chief Public Relations Officer Atul Rane, Assistant Commercial Manager (Catering) S.S. Patange, Assistant Commercial Manager M.D. Shrivastav, Divisional Commercial Manager Suresh Saxena, ex-Assistant Commercial Manager (Catering) Manik Ram, Catering Inspector Sudhakar and Office Superintendent (Catering) Ghodke [designations at the time of complaint] have been charged under Section 156 (3) of the Cr.PC.
The RTI reply revealed that several stalls and canteens operating at CST have not paid their rent. Most of them have not renewed their contract and were making huge profits by operating illegally. Mr. Bose in a letter to the CBI said the officers undervalued the money generated at the stalls and deposited a lesser amount. Mr. Bose said, “A few stalls were allowed without a licence for years.” He registered a complaint with the CBI on March 10, 2011, and August 2012, but received no reply. In July 2013, he filed a complaint with the CBI court seeking action against the officials. Advocate Pradeep Havnur said, “This is very sad. Instead of investigating the matter on the order of the CBI court, the CBI filed an application to quash the matter. This shows the CBI is trying to protect the accused.”
‘Astonishing behaviour’
The High Court order said, “We are surprised that the order of the special judge has neither been challenged by the accused nor the complainant. Instead, it was challenged by the investigating agency. We are astonished that the investigating machinery is sitting on this order and not acting upon it by citing this application and its pendency. We decline to grant any relief to the investigating machinery. With the above clarification, we dispose of this application.”
Rajesh Darak, Secretary, Whistle Blower India, said, “Such scams need to be highlighted and the persons responsible for it should be punished. Prima facie it looked like a big scam and that’s the reason CBI court ordered an inquiry. But instead of submitting the investigation report, the CBI went to the High Court for quashing the matter.” Mr. Darak said, “Even after the HC disposed of the case in May, why was no action taken against the people mentioned in the report?
The Superintendent of Police (CBI) and the General Manager of the Central Railway failed to respond to calls made to find out their opinion on the HC disposing of their plea.