Bhubaneswar, Dec 19:
Ridiculing Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s description of the Lokpal Bill passed by Parliament on Wednesday as historic’, eminent trade union leader Dwarika Mohan Mishra has accused him of stonewalling the state Lokpal’s order on illegal land acquisition for the proposed Vedanta University in Puri district, even after repeated recommendations of Governor.
“The Chief Minister has steadfastly refused to comply with the special report submitted by Lokpal to the Governor on the specious plea that the matter is pending in the Supreme Court and placing the explanatory memorandum will have an adverse impact on the case. The Chief Minister is clearly aware of Section 17 (3) of the Lokpal Act, which makes it clear that there is no bar on taking action even in a sub judice matter,” Mishra said at a press conference here.
He also accused the government of protecting Anil Agrawal, chairman of Vedanta Resources, even though the SDJM court of Bhubaneswar has directed that action be taken against him. The Governor too has asked the Home Secretary twice about the status report on the investigation, he added.
“In this context, the whole special report, which has been tabled in the state Assembly, has to be thoroughly examined in the letter and spirit of the Lokpal Act. The clearance given for placing before the Assembly should be recalled for thorough examination and appropriate action should be taken,” said Mishra.
It is to be noted that the then Governor MC Bhandare had asked the state government to explain the reasons for the alleged non-compliance of the Lokpal’s recommendations regarding the proposed Vedanta University.
Acting on the Lokpal’s special report submitted to him under section 12 (v) of the Odisha Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, the Governor had sent a note to the state public grievances and pension administration department seeking the government’s response in the matter. However, the government is sitting on the file.
The Lokpal, Justice PK Patra, had recommended to the state government the appointment of a competent authority to inquire into various acts of omission and commission perpetrated with regard to acquisition of 6000 acres of land for the proposed Rs 15,000-crore multi-disciplinary university in 2010.
It had come down heavily on the state government’s handling of the issue, especially the “illegal” acquisition of land belonging to Puri’s Jagannath Temple for the promoter, Anil Agarwal Foundation, whose conversion from being a “private company” to a “public company” was shrouded in controversy. It had also recommended action against people, including senior bureaucrats, who had advanced Vedanta’s cause by throwing laws to the wind.
Justice Patra had charged public authorities concerned of “ignorance of law” and “defiance of the order of the Lokpal”.
On November 16, 2010, the Odisha High Court had quashed land acquisition proceedings for the controversial varsity project on the ground that they were “illegal” and ordered the return of acquired land to its owners. The state government had acquired 3495.21 acres of private land and leased another 509.27 acres of government land for the proposed varsity, as against a requirement pegged at 6137.90 acre.