In a new standoff between Delhi’s popularly elected government of Arvind Kejriwal and the centre appointed Lieutenant Governor, the central government led by Narendra Modi has declared the inquiry into CNG fitness scam invalid.
A statement issued from the LG House said, “MHA terms the Commission of Inquiry constituted by the GNCTD as legally invalid and void ab initio (invalid from the outset).”
Last week, the LG, who reports to Union Home Ministry, had sought the Centre’s opinion on Delhi government’s decision to launch an inquiry into CNG fitness scam and whether the elected government had any jurisdiction to do so.
Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal government had ordered an inquiry into CNG fitness scam last week. The inquiry commission was also expected to question the former chief minister Sheila Dikshit and Lieutenant Governor on scam linked to fitness tests on CNG buses.
Delhi government had said that this independent commission of inquiry will headed by retd Justice S N Agarwal.
Investigating what came to be known as the CNG scam was a major poll issue by Arvind Kejriwal both in 2013 and 2015 assembly elections.
What’s CNG Fitness Scam
Way back in 2002, the Delhi government then headed by Sheila Dikshit, following a Supreme Court order, had kickstarted a process to test fitness on public transport vehicles using CNG. It hired ESP USA as consultant for this purpose. But later, the contract was awarded to another company called ‘ESP India Pvt Ltd’ allegedly with the collusion of officials and intention to steal funds. Surprisingly, this contract was awarded to the firm even before it was registered as a company. According to the Anti Corruption Branch (ACB), the company conducted two fitness tests, but also charged for a third, which was neither required nor conducted. There are allegations that Rs 1,600 collected for each test was siphoned off the alleged scamsters, who stole an estimated Rs 100 crore.
In 2013, a senior transport department official MA Usmani, whose role is under scanner, claimed he had been “under pressure from senior officials of the government to sign the tender documents.”
Usmani, along with other two officials from his department namely V K Gupta and Ashok Gupta submitted three letters to the LG, including one that purportedly authorised giving the tender to “ESP.” Surprisingly, in August 2013, the LG said that no case was made out, and denied the ACB sanction for prosecution. It was only after the ACB asked for a re-consideration, the LG agreed to constitute a two-member committee consisting of Justice (retd) Mukul Mudgal, and retired IAS officer Ramesh Chandra, to probe the case.
Mudgal Committe Findings
Mudgal Committee found serious wrongdoings in the process of awarding the tender by the state government. It expressed shock on how the original company had mysteriously changed into a new one and also how various layers of departmental checks had miserably failed to check these serious anomalies. It, however, did not indict any officials.