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Tuesday, November 24, 1998

Court rejects MSEB plea in fraud case 

Mumbai, Nov 23: The Mumbai high court on Monday turned down the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) plea to dismiss a petition alleging fraud of Rs 187 crore in awarding contract to the Power Plant Performance Improvement Ltd for retrofitting of its 15 turbines and other machinery.

The petition filed by three electricity consumers alleged that deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde, who holds the energy portfolio, was hand in glove with MSEB chairman PL Gajralwar and three other board members in the matter of awarding this contract.

The court had on September 1, 1998, admitted the petition but allowed Power Plant to proceed with retrofitting of turbines in seven units of MSEB in respect of which work was to commence within two years. Later, the court also directed MSEB to call for fresh tenders in respect of other turbines.

MSEB counsel TR Andhyarujina urged that the petition be dismissed because nothing survived therein in view of earlier court orders.

Counsel for petitioners, Srihari Ane and AAKumbhakoni, however, argued that if lesser rates were quoted in the fresh tenders for retrofitting of MSEB's seven turbines then it has to be determined how the losses occurred in respect of other turbines whose contract had been awarded to Power Plant. Besides, those responsible for the losses should be held accountable.

Chief justice MB Shah and justice S Radhakrishnan adjourned the matter to January 23 next for final hearing.

The petition alleged that Gajralwar, in connivance with board members Sudam Mandlik, Ashok Sampat and Anil Rathod, hurriedly decided to grant the contract to Power Plant.

The MSEB chairman allegedly used restraint methods and pressures on other board members in a meeting held on January 28 to award the contract in favour of Power Plant, the petitioners alleged.

They further alleged that MSEB's technical and accounts members were not in favour of granting the contract to this company in such a hurry. Besides, another company `LMZ' had quoted lower rates.

Despite oppositionfrom MSEB's technical and accounts members, the chairman and three other members of the board decided to award the contract not only in respect of one unit (as decided in the meeting) but also for all the turbines, the court was told.

This, the petitioners argued, was illegal, arbitrary and against the interests of the consumers because it would affect MSEB's performance. They feared that the burden may be passed to the consumers in the form of increased power tariff.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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