Maharashtra's Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has given a clean chit to NCP leader and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in the multi-crore Vidarbha irrigation scam.
The ACB, in its affidavit submitted in the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court, has ruled out Mr Pawar's involvement in cases of alleged irregularities in approval and commissioning of irrigation projects in the Vidarbha region.
The affidavit was submitted on November 27, a day before the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress was sworn-in the state on November 28.
The court had asked the ACB to clarify its stand on the role of Mr Pawar, a former Water Resources Development Minister, in these cases.
Mr Pawar, the NCP MLA from Baramati in Pune district, was Water Resources Development Minister during 1999-2009 when the Congress-NCP alliance was in power in Maharashtra.
Mr Pawar had also served as chairman of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), which had cleared irrigation projects in which irregularities were alleged.
The ACB is probing a total of 2,654 tenders related to 45 projects of VIDC as per two PILs filed in 2012 before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court.
On November 25, the anti-graft agency had said it has closed probe in nine cases of alleged corruption in irrigation projects, but clarified none of them was linked to Mr Pawar.
"These enquiries were closed as no criminal offence was made out after enquiry against anyone. None of these nine enquiries was in respect to Ajit Pawar, the then chairman of VIDC," the ACB had said.
About the November 27 affidavit, a senior ACB official said the court had asked the agency to submit a ''status report'' on the VIDC scam before November 28.
"We have not closed inquiry into the VIDC cases. In some cases we have filed charge sheets and investigation is also going on. Similarly, investigation into FIRs related to these cases are also going on.
"We have submitted the status report on investigation going on into tenders that were issued (by VIDC)," he said.
He said the HC had asked the ACB to submit a report on the a PIL concerning award of tenders in an irrigation project in Amravati. Pawar was named a respondent in this PIL.
"Concerning this we had, in our previous affidavit, written that we have referred this matter to the government for opinion.
"Now, we have got opinion from the government that Ajit Pawar was not involved in it (the scam) and this we have communicated to the court a few days back.
"Besides, Ajit Pawar was never an accused in any of our cases and investigation into Vidarbha irrigation tender cases are still on," the ACB official said.
The scam, pegged at around Rs 70,000 crore, related to alleged corruption, cost escalations and irregularities in approval and execution of various irrigation projects during the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rule.
The allegations on Mr Pawar included claims that he awarded projects at inflated prices.