Panaji: The state Lokayukta has ordered the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) to register a First Information Report (FIR) against ex-chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, former mines secretary Pawan Kumar Sain and former director of mining and geology department Prasanna Acharya for their roles in the illegal renewal of 88 mining leases in 2015.
The Lokayukta has also ordered that the case should be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for an independent inquiry into the illegal renewals, which were allegedly carried out to avoid competitive bidding or auction process for granting the leases.
The Lokayukta also declared that the two officers P K Sain and Prasanna Acharya are unfit to continue to hold offices held by them, as they abused their official positions to confer huge benefit on some of the mining leaseholders.
Sain is presently appointed at President Ram Nath Kovind’s Secretariat and is the director at the administrative wing, while Acharya is now Additional Collector-I, South Goa.
A single-member bench headed by Justice P K Misra, during its detailed investigation, found that the grant of second renewal to the mining leases was done in haste in contrary to the Grant of Mining Leases Policy and without waiting till the completion of inquiries relating to serious violations of Rule 37 or Rule 38 or other similar violations carried out by the state-appointed Special Investigation Team and a team of chartered accountants.
“The real intention of the second renewal was to satisfy the avariciousness of the mining leaseholders, who were motivated by profits to be made through the exploitation of natural resources. There is no reason given by any of the respondents as to why the leases in respect of which inquires relating to violations of Rule 37 or Rule 38 were pending, were renewed without waiting for completion of inquiry,” the order reads.
It was on November 17, 2014, that the draft Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 2014 was published on the website of the Ministry of Mines of the government of India. The policy of the government of India proposed to introduce Section 10B by way of an amendment to the MMDR Act and the proposed amendment made it very clear that if it were to be accepted, auction of mining leases in respect of notified minerals (including iron ore) would become a reality if not an obligation.
“The state of Goa perhaps anticipated this in view of the publication of the draft Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 2014 and, therefore, hurried into the second renewal. It appears that to circumvent this rather uncomfortable policy, the state pressed the accelerator on the renewal of mining leases from December 2014 onward to benefit mining leaseholders,” the Lokayukta mentioned in his order.
An ordinance to amend the MMDR Act was made known to the general public on January 5, 2015, and promulgated by the President on January 12, 2015, thereby mandating competitive bidding or auction for the grant of mining leases.
The state overstepped the law and granted a second renewal in early January 2015 and within a span of one week, between January 5 and January 12 there were renewals of 56 mining leases without even waiting for any approval or deemed approval of the mining plan from the Indian Bureau of Mines or any other authority in order to avoid the applicability of the impending ordinance.
Following its detailed investigation, the Loakyukta held all the three respondents corrupt and said they abused their power to show undue favour to many of the mining leaseholders.
“This institution is satisfied that the public functionaries concerned have committed crime of criminal misconduct under 13(1) (d)(ii) and therefore should be prosecuted for offence punishable under Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, as well as offence of criminal conspiracy as defined in Section 120-A of the Indian Penal Code punishable under 120-B of Indian Penal Code and they should be prosecuted in the court of law for such offences,” the order states.
In September 2018, when the Lokayukta started a detailed investigation, Parsekar and Acharya, however, did not dare to name former chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who, as the then chief minister and minister in charge of mines, had approved renewal of a few leases on or before November 15, 2014. They had, however, sufficiently hinted at his role during his tenure.
The former chief minister and former minister for mines Laxmikant Parsekar in his submission has denied the allegation relating to abuse of powers and said that the decision to grant renewal was the policy decision of the state government and the cabinet. He said such renewals were granted in order to comply with the High Court order asking them to decide the second renewal within three months.
But the Lokayukta denied to accept the reason and said that the pretext that the High Court had issued a mandamus to renew such leases does not hold any water, as the mandamus to renew was in respect of only six of those 31 leases, which were hurriedly renewed with lightning speed on January 12 itself.
During the course of hearing, the complainant produced several documents and chart showing an analysis of various second renewals.
Upon perusal of the records, the Lokayukta was surprised to see that within a week from the day the ordinance was approved by the Union cabinet, the state government had granted second renewal to 25 mining leases. To make matters worse, second renewal was granted to 31 mining leases on January 12, 2015, the day the ordinance came into force, making a total of 56 renewals of mining leases.
CM says order is recommendatory
Panaji: Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, reacting to the Goa Lokayukta order directing Anti Corruption Bureau to register First Information Report against former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar and two officials for their role in renewing 88 mining leases in haste, said that “the order of the Goa Lokayukta is only recommendatory.”
“The Goa Lokayukta report is recommendatory,” he stated, pointing out, “The government will study the order and decide further course of action.” NT