Former Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar on Wednesday skipped the summons of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the Covid-19 body bag scam. Pednekar had been summoned by the ED for questioning but she contacted ED officials and requested a four-week extension.
Pednekar's lawyer, Rahul Arote, reached the ED office and submitted a written application requesting a four-week extension. In the application, Pednekar stated that it would take some time to gather all the required documents, and thus she requested the four-week extension. However, the ED did not provide any official response to her request.
The Covid-19 body bag scam
In the Covid-19 body bag scam, Pednekar has been accused of influencing the decision of the administrative committee to finalise the tender. According a source in the ED, Pednekar is allegedly involved in inflating the cost of body bags in BMC's procurement. This is based on the Economic Offenses Wing's (EOW) FIR. The investigation by the EOW revealed that two vendors were finalised after the bidding process in April 2020.
The first company, M/S Care Solution, was ready to supply body bags after post-negotiation at a rate of Rs 2,583 per bag. Meanwhile, Pednekar, who was serving as the BMC mayor at the time, allegedly called Haridas Rathod, who was in-charge of the Central Purchase Department, at her bungalow. She instructed him to award the contract to M/s Vedanta Innotech Pvt. Ltd.
Rathod told the EOW that he proposed the purchase order in favour of M/S Care Solution. However, when the company delivered the first batch of 2,000 body bags, they were rejected by BMC officials with no valid reason. Subsequently, the bags were declared unfit.
EOW investigation's findings
The EOW investigation found that until June 2020, an alternative supplier had not been finalised due to various reasons. The BMC began purchasing body bags from M/s Vedanta Innotech Pvt Ltd at the rate of Rs 6,719 per bag, which was over two times what it had charged other private hospitals or government authorities (Rs 2,925 per piece) during the same period.
Pednekar and other BMC officials have been found in a criminal conspiracy. They were entrusted with the use of BMC funds and are alleged to have had dominion over these funds. It is claimed that they hatched a criminal conspiracy to favor M/s Vedanta Innotech Pvt. Ltd.