Shivaji memorial project: Congress & NCP find another irregularity

Mumbai: After exposing the scam in the bidding for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharahaj Memorial, Congress and NCP have exposed yet another serious irregularity in the tendering process.

Instead of seeking the opinion of the state government’s law and judiciary department to bypass the tendering, the government has relied upon the legal advice of the project management consultant, alleged the Congress and the NCP at a press conference.

“On the one hand, Mukul Rohatgi has given legal opinion in favour of Larsen &Toubro (L&T), based on which the govt gave them the contract. On the other hand, Rohatgi also represents L&T in the Supreme Court. It shows the level of irregularities in the project.

After the SC granted oral stay to the project on January 11, Mukul Rohatgi represented the L&T in this matter before Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in July, a clear case of conflict of interest,” said the spokespersons of the Cong­ress, Sachin Sawant and the NCP’s Nawab Malik, at a press meet.

Despite such serious irregulari­ties, the CM has not yet announ­ced a probe. The government silence on such serious issues shows it is aware of the corruption, the opposition claimed.

At a meeting of the chief secretary-headed panel, it was expected legal advice would be sought from the law and judiciary dept or from the attorney general of the state, on if the govt could negotiate with the bidder.

But surprisingly, Aegis India Pvt Ltd, the project consultant, said it had appointed a well-known legal consultant, whose opinion would be sought on the tender issue and the report from the legal consultant would be submitted at the next meet. The panel approved this unsolicited and uncalled-for proposal, Malik said.

“As per the proposal, Aegis India obtained legal opinion from former AG Muk­ul Rohatgi and retired judge VN Khare. But when the report subm­itted by the two legal experts was studied word-for-word, it was fou­nd to be the same.

And prime fac­ie, it looked like it had been writ­ten by the same person. Point numbers 12-20 and 13-22 in the report by Khare and Rohatgi resp­e­ctively, are the same,” said Sawant.

Both the reports were tabled in the meet chaired by the chief secy on February 22, 2018. Expectedly, before the reports were okayed, these were to be sent for scrutiny to law and judiciary dept.

But the govt was in such a hurry to award the contract to L&T the report was verbally okayed by the law and judiciary dept secretary Rajendra Bhagwat, when it was compulsory to obtain his written consent. Besides, the latter was not connected with the matter at all.

Despite this, CM Fadnavis okayed the project on February 28, 2018. The public works dept sent a letter seeking the L&T’s nod for the project. All the changes were studied by L&T in a day and it approved the project on March 1.

The same day, CM handed over the letter of allotment to the firm. From the chain of events, it is clear that everything was being done to benefit L&T, the Oppn alleged.

For this legal opinion, Rohatgi sent a bill of Rs15 lakh to Aegis India on February 17, 2018. The PWD wrote to Rohatgi and Khare on October 12, 2018, asking them if the opinion indeed had been given by them and if they had received the payment for it from Aegis India.

The dept also asked them to submit a receipt of payment from Aegis. It has been over a year since the letter was written, but neither Rohatgi nor Khare have reacted. Only a probe can reveal if the company had made the payment, said Sawant.

Vinayak Mete, head of the Shiv Smarak Committee, who is being asked to defend the project by the state government, had also written to the CM as far back as on September 15, 2015, pointing out the corruption in the project, exactly as the Congress and the NCP are now doing.

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