In a development which may leave the Anti-Corruption Bureau red-faced, an attempt by the Investigating Agency to close the Cavelossim fish pond desilting case via “A” final summary has been rejected by the South Goa district and Sessions Court.
In fact, district Sessions Judge Irshad Agha has directed the Investigating Officer to carry out further investigation in the matter in accordance with law.
The Investigating Agency had submitted “A” Final Summary report before the South Goa Sessions Court and preferred closure of the case pertaining to the FIR registered by the ACB against 10 persons on December 8, 2021 based on the inquiry report of the Lokayukta.
The FIR had alleged that the accused persons, including former sarpanch, four ex-panchas, former secretary of Cavelossim panchayat, besides ex-officials of Water Resources Department had caused loss to the government exchequer to the tune of Rs 12.22 lakh. The ACB had alleged in the FIR that the accused had allegedly entered into a conspiracy to take up the desilting of the pond by portraying that the work is being taken up by the panchayat in public interest.
During the investigation, it was revealed that the village panchayats are empowered to recommend to government departments for taking up works or measures which are likely to promote the health, safety, education, comfort, convenience or special or economic well-being of the inhabitants of the panchayat area. The village panchayats can also recommend for taking up new works which would lead to development of fisheries in the villages. It was also revealed that the work of desilting of ponds was carried out by the office of assistant engineer. The investigation also revealed that there is no proposal from the WRD to acquire the land.
Interestingly, the Investigating Agency did not file any evidence to proceed with the accused persons, but instead filed the application for closure of the case.
Judge Agha observed the issue involved in the present case is a sensitive issue.
“The property in question is illegally developed by filling part of the salt pans which comes under the category of environment and eco-sensitive zone as per the ODP plan. According to the Intervener, the violators have filled part of the salt pans which is an eco sensitive area. Accordingly to the Investigating Agency, the violators had filled part of the salt pans. There is a violation operating without any technical clearance. It appears that the authorities who are listed and named in the chargesheet above have misused their powers and helped the accused persons in damaging the property,” the judge said.
The judge added: “The issue involved in the present matter is sensitive as the issue of the environment is involved. The Investigating Agency ought to have carried out a proper investigation. In case required, the Authority can take help of the present Intervener, Oswald Fernandes,” the Judge said.