The petition Chhattisgarh planned and then dropped
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On April 26, 2010, Chhattisgarh additional secretary (law) Ravishankar Sharma wrote to the government's additional standing counsel in Delhi, Aniruddh P Mai: "The state government has decided to file an SLP [special leave petition] in the Supreme Court against the Bilaspur High Court's February order [in favour of Balco in a land case]... pl file and inform this department."
The U-turn came two days later. The cabinet issued an order dated April 28 allotting 1,804.67 acres of government land to Balco, the aluminium giant whose plant in Korba spans over 2,700 acres. Of the 1,804.67 acres government land, 1,136 acres was to be allotted after obtaining forest clearance at Rs 200 per acre and the remaining 668.67 acres at current rates.
Over the years, Balco had been pressing for an out-of-court settlement. But with senior government officers opposing it, the government prepared to file an SLP — until it backtracked.
It is this U-turn that is now being probed by a Raipur court. Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel has alleged that Chief Minister Raman Singh conspired with then chief secretary P Joy Ommen, who had issued the April 28 order, and Balco CEO Gunjan Gupta and ended up causing a loss of Rs 140 crore to the exchequer.
The Congress petition, admitted by the court on Wednesday, charges the three under sections 420, 467, 120B of IPC and 13(1)D and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The court dismissed Baghel's demand for getting the matter probed by the corruption bureau and decided to investigate itself under section 200 of the CrPC.
This is the first time Raman Singh faces a corruption probe in his nine years as chief minister. The Congress had earlier approached the governor for sanction to prosecute Singh but he apparently did not respond and the party moved the court.
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