3 officers chargesheeted in Smriti MPLAD funds case

 Smriti Irani (ANI file photo)

Two years after a PIL was filed, alleging corruption in the utilisation of Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) funds of union textile minister Smriti Irani in Anand district here, the state government informed that Gujarat High Court last week that it has served chargesheet on three 'erring' officers. 

The government also said it is trying to recover money from a private agency hired as an implementing agency for development works. 

In the affidavit, the government has said it has attached five bank accounts of the organisation containing nearly Rs 86 lakh.

The state government's affidavit states that the three officers "bypassed" procedures and guidelines established under MPLAD  scheme, resulting in "serious consequences"

The government has held C R Birai, then district planning officer, A D Rathod, deputy executive engineer and Hina P Patel, deputy accountant, responsible and served them with a chargesheet on April 11.

These developments confirm allegations of corruption in the MPLAD funds.

The affidavit, however, is silent on allegations against Irani.

The development comes two years after the PIL was filed by Amit Chavda, the state Congress president and MLA from Anklav constituency.

MPLAD funds misappropriated

Irani, a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, has adopted Anand as the nodal district. Chavda, in his PIL, had charged Smriti Irani with misappropriating MPLAD funds and sought a probe against her. 

He alleged that Irani insisted on awarding the project of developing Maghrol village to "Shri Sharda Majdoor Kamdar Sahkari Mandli Ltd."

The petition alleges that while guidelines prohibit MPs from identifying the implementing agency, this was ignored in the case of Sharda Majdoor Mandli.

While appointing an implementing agency is a task of the district authority, the PIL has alleged that District Planning Officer had awarded the works to the Mandli "as per the instruction received from Irani's PA over phone.

It also says that that 59 development works were not undertaken at all and 96 works were inadequately completed. "Therefore there is fraud, embezzlement of MPLADS funds and infringement of the guidelines and hence the illegality and irregularity committed in 155 works stands established."

Following the submission of government's affidavit, advocate Anand Yagnik, who represents the petitioner, filed a rejoinder, saying the state government had only focused on the actions of the district officers to "completely whitewash the role of the respondent MP."

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