Bombay HC pulls up ACB, Thane Police over delay in filing FIR against contractor

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The Bombay High Court on Wednesday pulled up Thane Police’s Anti-Corruption Bureau for not registering an FIR based on a complaint lodged against a contractor who had allegedly cheated the civic authority by underreporting the advertisement revenue collected for the signboard management of 470 bus stops in Thane since 2013.

A complaint was lodged in October, 2018 against the contractor with the ACB, but as no action was initiated, prompted a PIL before the HC in 2019

The petitioner said out of 470 bus stops, signboards had been put up on only 55 % of them and charges for only 2.5 % of those bus stops were received by the Thane Municipal Corporation. In December 2019, the High Court had granted three months’ time to ACB to complete its probe and register the FIR.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a PIL filed by activist Pravin Wategaonkar in relation to the alleged corruption in allotment of advertising rights on bus shelters owned by the Thane Municipal Transport Undertaking (TMTU). Wategaonkar submitted the contractor appointed by TMC in 2013 for signboard management in Thane city was based on false financial eligibility details.

The PIL further stated the contractor had defaulted in paying the advertising fees to TMC since the contract began, and therefore the civic authority had issued a demand notice of Rs 27.27 crore in 2018, which included five times the penalty on Rs. 4.54 crore coupled with the interest.

In light of this, the PIL sought registration of FIR against the contractor for misleading the TMC while securing the contract and also for siphoning off public money.

After hearing submissions, the bench sought to know from ACB as to why it took so much time to register the FIR. Chief Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare responded that a preliminary inquiry was conducted and the report has been prepared but the final report was delayed due to pandemic and hence it could not be completed by March, 2020.

After the court intervened and referred to Supreme Court judgements, ACB assured the court it would be registering the FIR within a week, which was accepted by the bench and posted the hearing on the PIL after two weeks.



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