Petition alleges vindictive action by NCP minister



Mumbai: A toll-booth operator company has moved the Bombay High Court, challenging the order of Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) which terminated it contract at two places allegedly at the instance of Maharashtra minister Jaydutt Kshirsagar.

The MSRDC order of April 3 also restrained Souvenir Developers, the petitioner, from participating in the future tenders till the government-run corporation decided whether the company should be blacklisted or not.

After arguments for two days last week, the bench headed by Justice S F Vajifdar said it would give the ruling on May 11.

The petitioner has alleged malafides against the respondents, in particular Khirsagar, who is minister for PWD (Public Undertakings) as well as Sushil Kumar Jadhav. Both belong to NCP. The minister is Chairman and MD of MSRDC too.

On April 16, the High Court had passed an interim order allowing the petitioner to continue the contracts in respect of the toll stations Shevati and Nagzari.

According to the petition, last year Jadhav had forced the company's director to quote a particular rate in respect of a tender. The director later filed a police complaint.

Jadhav, in turn, approached the minister. The petition alleges that Kshirsagar informed the company that he wanted to give fresh toll contracts to one of the party members, and the company should cooperate with Jadhav.

The minister allegedly threatened that if Souvenir participated in the tender floated by MSRDC, he would withdraw its contract. After Souvenir refused to do the minister's bidding, Jadhav filed complaints regarding three toll stations, it says.

On December 15 last year, the minister directed investigation into the complaint to be carried out by the Superintending Engineer (Vigilance & Quality Control), PWD, Aurangabad.

The Superintending Engineer recorded Jadhav's statement and later arranged surprise inspections at the three toll booths.

It is alleged that Jadhav's followers assisted the inspection squads. "This is one of the allegations which would certainly require a response", the judges said in the interim order of last month.

The petitioner company says that the members of the squad were not carrying any identification, and did not produce any authorisation for the visit, so the company refused to cooperate with them.

Based on the Superintending Engineer's report, PWD Secretary directed action against Souvenir. But the company has said in the petition that in some similar cases no such action was ordered.

The High Court said that MSRDC would require to respond to this allegation too.

PTI