“Purushottam Solanki is being politcally targeted”

Ahmedabad, 1 August 2012

Is Gujarat minister of state for fisheries Parshottam Solanki being targeted politically in the name of so called fishing scam?

Solanki is is powerful Koli community leader who influences several assembly seats in coastal Saurashtra. Gujarat assembly election is scheduled to be held this year.

Solanki is accused of showing undue favour in awarding contracts for fishing at state reservoirs without inviting bids for their auction. The state cabinet has cleared him, but the Governor – who is a former Congress minister – has given her sanction to prosecute Solanki and in yet another controversial step she has overruled the Council of Ministers’ decision. Ishaqu Maradia, a petitioner of the case against Solanki is contractor, and his lawyer Mukul Sinha runs Jan Sangharsh Manch, an NGO that fights riot related cases against the state government.

So, is Solanki being politically targeted?

When asked, cabinet minister of fisheries Dilip Sanghani (senior minister of Solanki) said, “yes Solanki is being targeted politically, and the case against him has been cooked up. As a minister of state or say junior minister, Solanki doesn’t enjoy direct power to clear any file. His role is limited to give only recommendation. As a senior minister, I gave permission to allot fishing rights and my notings are there on the file which was sent to Governor.”

Sanghani said the fishing contracts were given to poor local people without auction, just to prevent monopoly of the contractors(petitioner Ishaq Maradia) who was taking all the contracts since years, and the beneficiaries were people who were working as laborers only. Since Ishaq questioned the government decision not to auction these contracts, a division bench of the high court cancelled all contracts.After the court order, the government canceled the contracts and issued new ones. The state cabinet has already given clean chit to Solanki, and there’s no need for his resignation as the court has given permission only to register an FIR. Unless the minister is chargesheeted, he does not need to resign.

Interestingly, Sanghani is another minister being targeted ahead of the assembly election season. He hails from powerful Leuva Patel community. A case has been lodged against him for allegedly masterminding an attack on so called RTI activist. The third BJP leader on target is Shankar Chaudhary, MLA from north Gujarat. Chaudhary is facing the cases of riot and misuse of grant.

Coming back to Solanki’s case, he has on Tuesday filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court on factual and constitutional grounds challenging the Governor’s sanction for his prosecution under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Solanki has said in his petition that a Governor does not have the power to grant sanction for persecution without the aid and advice of the council of ministers.

Solanki has demanded the governor’s order be quashed on the basis of a judgement passed by a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court which makes it mandatory for the governor to work on the aid and advice of the government.

Counsel for Solanki, Prakash Thakkar said that the Governor’s decision has been challenged on merit. The decision of Governor is in contradiction of the order of a seven-judge Supreme Court bench and violets various provisions of the constitution. Governor has to act under the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers without taking an independent decision. Decisions on such issues are to be taken by the Council of Ministers and to be promulgated in the name of the Governor. According to SC verdict, the President and the Governor can not take decision in their individual capacity, without the aid and advice of the council of ministers. Hence, the current decision of the Governor is unconstitutional and sets a bad precedent. Governor Dr Kamla Beniwal had granted sanction for the prosecution of Solanki overruling the decision of the state cabinet. “If the Governor keeps giving such sanctions, then it would create a parallel government at the Governor House”.

Solanki has said in his petition that the decision to allocate contracts without auction was taken to ensure that poor local people get contracts. If the government had taken the auction route, it would have only benefited rich businessmen. The government passed a resolution to award fishing contracts at a base price to persons displaced by the Narmada project and to tribals. The decision to not earn from the fishing contracts was take in good spirit. Hence no tendering process was initiated to award the contracts. The move was not meant to earn revenue at all.

Solanki has reportedly mentioned in his petition that the government is being run by he BJP and the Governor is from Congress, and ao she has taken s political decision.

According to Solanki’s counsel Prakash Thakkar, complainant Ishaq did not even make Solanki party in the litigation; neither did the court make any comment against the minister’s actions.

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