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Gujarat's Fishing Scam: HC Notice over Minister's Quashing Plea

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INDIA - The Gujarat high court has issued notice to the state government and complainant Ishaq Maradia over a petition filed by the fisheries minister Purshottam Solanki demanding quashing of a criminal complaint and police inquiry against him by a Gandhinagar court in connection with the alleged Rs 400-crore fishing scam.

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Justice R H Shukla on Thursday asked the respondent to file their reply by August 21, when hearing is kept on Solanki's quashing plea. Earlier this month, a special anti-corruption court in Gandhinagar directed the superintendent of police to conduct an inquiry into the charges of corruption against the fisheries minister and submit a report by 6 October, reports TimesOfIndia.

Acting on a complaint filed by Maradia against Solanki for the alleged Rs 400-crore fishing contract scam, special judge G K Upadhyay ordered inquiry under section 202 of the CrPC demanding report. Maradia filed a complaint before the court seeking Solanki's prosecution under sections 7, 8, 13(1)A, 13(1)B and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The complaint was filed after governor Dr Kamla granted sanction for prosecution of the minister, which is mandatory to be obtained in case of any public servant. Even the Gujarat high court also cleared the way for this process last month. On 30 March, the high court had directed the Narendra Modi government to take a decision on the issue of granting sanction for prosecution of Solanki within three months, failing which the governor would have final authority.

On 30 June, hours before the deadline was to expire, the government informed Maradia that the cabinet found there was no case against Solanki. When Maradia moved the court for contempt against the government, the court gave three weeks to the governor to take a decision.

On examination of the files, Raj Bhavan found that the then chief secretary D Rajagopalan had strongly opposed the fishing contracts and made notings: "This is against government policy of leasing our reservoir and dams for fishing and the minister has no authority to change it. Such power is lying only with the cabinet and unless cabinet changes policy, it cannot be given for any consideration. This matter has never been put up before the cabinet."

Meanwhile, Solanki has also moved the HC challenging the governor's decision of giving sanction for his prosecution. Hearing of this petition is underway, wherein Solanki has contended that it was a resolution by which the tendering process was given a go-bye and a senior minister approved the scheme.