Governor has her way in Narendra Modi-ruled Gujarat, yet again
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When the Gujarat High Court last week upheld Governor Kamla Beniwal's decision to sanction the prosecution of Fisheries Minister Purushottam Solanki, it marked the culmination of one of several showdowns between the governor and the state government.
Before this, the governor had refused to clear several Bills and had her way in appointing R A Mehta as Lokayukta. The government had once sought her recall, without success.
In Solanki's case, the cabinet had met to discuss the possibility of allowing his prosecution and had decided against it, but the governor then ignored that and granted sanction, following which Solanki went to court, leading to the order upholding the governor's right to sanction the minister's prosecution.
The case against Solanki dates back to 2008 when Ishaq Mohammad Maradia, a small-time fishing contractor based in Banaskantha, was denied a contract for fishing in a state reservoir. The government hadn't invited tenders, though a government resolution of 2004 stated that would be the route for awarding fishing contracts.
Maradia moved the High Court that year, submitting an affidavit by a contractor who alleged that Solanki had asked him for Rs 30 lakh, and that Solanki had called a group of people to his office and house in Gandhinagar and struck "deals" to give them licences on the basis of upset prices rather than invite tenders. Based on the affidavit, Maradia alleged the minister had demanded a total Rs 11 crore for 58 such fishing contracts.
In September 2008, the court scrapped the contracts and ordered that tenders be invited. These tenders fetched the government Rs 45 crore in a single year, against Rs 2.4 crore for the contracts granted by the minister. Maradia estimated that this worked out to a loss of Rs 400 crore to the government in the 10 years that Solanki had been granting contracts, and moved the High Court in 2010, this time to seek Solanki's prosecution.
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