INDIA: High court seeks answers over US$3.87 billion losses in Maha coop sales

Published: 12/06/2017, 9:32:07 AM

The Bombay high court on Tuesday sought to know from the Maharashtra government what action the police had taken to investigate the "losses of INR250 billion" (US$3.87 billion) to the exchequer allegedly caused by co-operative sugar factories, according to India's Hindustan Times newspaper.

A bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice Rajesh Ketkar was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare through advocate Vinod Sangavikar, who alleged that 47 cooperative sugar factories were sold or privatised without due diligence. He blamed various political leaders, mostly from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), for the "scam" and sought an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The bench directed public prosecutor Deepak Thakare to inform the court if any action had been taken by the police on Hazare's complaint. The directive came after Hazare's lawyer SB Talekar pointed that they had approached various law-enforcing agencies. The petition stated that cooperative banks controlled by politicians were forced to give loans to stressed sugar factories. The state government allegedly facilitated these loans. When factories turned into non-performing assets, they were bought by politicians or their associates at throwaway prices.

The alleged irregularities took place between 2004 and 2014, when the Congress-NCP government was in power, according to the petition. NCP chief Sharad Pawar was Union agriculture minister during that period.

The PIL said most of stressed sugar factories were allegedly sold to Sharad Pawar's associates and his nephew, Ajit Pawar, who was the then deputy CM, also played a key role as the then chairman of Pune District Central Cooperative Bank and director of Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank. 

"There may not be direct evidence to prove involvement of Sharad Pawar or Ajit Pawar or other high level officials, but there is more than sufficient circumstantial evidence showing their connection," the PIL read.