Gujarat wants 2 months to decide on minister’s graft trial

Gandhinagar, March 4 (IANS) The Gujarat government Thursday sought two months’ time from the state high court to take a final decision on the issue of prosecuting Fisheries Minister Purshottam Solanki on corruption charges.

Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta appearing before Justice Anant Dave of the Gujarat High Court on behalf of the state’s chief secretary Thursday sought eight weeks’ time to take a final decision on whether to grant permission to file a case against the minister.

Solanki had allegedly allotted fishing rights for various reservoirs in the state without inviting tenders. These contracts were cancelled after a Supreme Court order.

Ishaq Mohammad Maradia, a resident of Banaskantha district of north Gujarat, had filed a petition Dec 2, 2009, in the high court alleging corruption by the minister in the allotment of fishing rights for various reservoirs in the state.

He alleged that the minister sought and received Rs.11 crore from 58 contractors for fishing rights to 58 reservoirs.

In a letter to the chief secretary in December 2009, Maradia had sought permission for action against the minister and had made it clear that if the permission was not forthcoming he would seek judicial intervention.

According to R.J. Mankad, counsel for Maradia, the state government’s permission is necessary to prosecute a minister and therefore the letter.

The fisheries department, at the behest of the minister had allotted the contracts without inviting tenders in 2008, causing a loss of nearly Rs.44 crore to the state government.

Aggrieved with the department’s decision, high court intervention was sought leading to cancellation of allotment and strictures against the minister.

After the fisheries department failed to honour the high court’s order, some fishing societies knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court.

The apex court in December 2008 directed the department to abide by the high court order.

It was only thereafter that the contracts given in July and August 2008 were cancelled and fresh contracts were given after inviting tenders.

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