Mumbai: The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Monday closed investigations in some of the cases pertaining to the infamous "irrigation scam" in the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) when it was headed by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, officials said here.
The ACB has shut the investigations into at least nine cases in which Ajit Pawar was allegedly involved, though it is not clear if he was directly named, on the first day of the new government taking office on Monday, 48 hours after it was sworn in early on Saturday.
However, Director-General of Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau Parambir Singh said today that "none of these cases closed today pertain to DCM (Deputy Chief Minister) Ajit Pawar".
After a furore in political circles this evening, the ACB issued a statement saying it is probing 2,654 tenders in 45 projects under the VIDC - then headed by Ajit Pawar -- as per two public interest litigations filed in the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) in 2012.
So far the open probe has been completed in 212 tenders and First Information Report (FIRs) filed in 24 cases and charge sheets in five cases.
The open enquiry has been shut in 45 tenders as no offence was found, and departmental enquiries have been recommended in 28 matters for administrative lapses, said the ACB.
The ACB added that the nine closures today are among the 45 closed in the past two-to-five months as no criminal offences were found against anyone.
These nine files pertain to big and small irrigation VIDC projects in Washim, Yavatmal, Amravati and Buldhana in the Vidarbha region, according to the ACB notification.
These cases, among others -- collectively known as the sensational Rs 70,000 crore 'Irrigation Scam' -- were allegedly perpetrated around 10 years ago and created a massive political storm.
Ajit Pawar was heading the VIDC at that time when the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance was in power, and the (then) opposition parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party, Shiv Sena, Aam Aadmi Party and others raised it regularly to gain political mileage.
The ACB is investigating over 2,600 tenders in irrigation-related complaints in which two dozen first information reports have been registered, which are being investigated as before, and the files closed today are only in nine routine cases.
ACB officials also said that today's closure are conditional and could be reopened if more information comes to light during investigations or a court order for a further probe.
The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) has taken strong objections to the sudden closure of these alleged scam cases with a threat to launch an agitation and also counter it legally.
"In these nine cases alone pertaining to the VIDC matters, there are very serious allegations of misuse or siphoning of over Rs 9000 crores. After so many years, how can they be abruptly closed?" VJAS President Kishore Tiwari told IANS.
He said the manner in which it has come two days after the new government led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and DCM Ajit Pawar was sworn in, itself makes the ACB's move "very suspicious" and would be challenged at all levels.