OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

In his latest blog Ninad Laud argues that a Public Interest Litigation to challenge the Pratibha Patil nomination has very slim odds of being entertained by the Supreme Court. Well Ninad Offstumped has done some digging to help you out with more facts that maybe grounds for such a PIL.

First a recounting of the chronology of events in the 2001-2002 Sugar Export scam to which the Muktabai SSK Co-operative Sugar Factory, Jalgaon was a party. Offstumped had already shown earlier that Pratibha Patil listed herself as Chairperson of this co-operative in 2001-2002 and Sharad Pawar in his comments recently confirmed that she resigned only after she was appointed Governor of Rajasthan.

28th May 2002 Times of India – Complaints against 10 Sugar Co-Ops are filed by Ratnakar Gaikwad, holding additional charge of state sugar commissioner The probe was conducted by the sugar sugar commissionerate in the wake of complaint filed by Shiv Sena MLC Kanhaiyalal Gidwani. Muktabai SSK is listed as an offender

29th May 2002 Times of India – Registration of Cheating cases is ordered. The registrar of co-operatives ordered that criminal complaints be filed against directors of ten big sugar co-op factories that allegedly have evaded paying excise duty
3rd June 2002 Times of India – Sena MLC Gidwani demands CBI probe. Gidwani alleges connivance between the management of the scam-tainted sugar co-operatives and the “so- called exporters” have resulted in a loss of Rs 200 per quintal and the total losses added up to almost Rs 40 crore. He demands the dissolution of the board of directors of the 10 sugar co-operatives, which were found guilty.

3rd June 2002 Times of India – First signs of political watering down of criminal charges. Minister of state for co-operatives Babasaheb Kupekar said on Sunday that punitive action against co-operative sugar factories involved in selling export quota sugar in the domestic open market would continue. The Minister’s sugar co-ops are also listed in the scam later on. He felt that the Union government’s policies were equally responsible for such irregularities. “Filing an FIR against the sugar factories has unnecessarily given a bad name to the entire co-operative sugar sector,”

1st Jul 2002 Economic Times – Union finance ministry is considering a thorough investigation into a major evasion of excise duty by various co-operative sugar mills in Maharashtra allegedly by diverting sugar meant for exports into domestic market. The ministry is proposing such investigations to be conducted by Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) for tax evasion as also by the Reserve Bank of India for payments received through letters of credit against such deals.

8th Aug 2002 Times of India – Allegations of political soft pedalling in Maharashtra Legislative Council.

27th October 2002 Times of India – This is the crucial link in this story that Lawyers like Ninda must consider. HC judgement has Sugar Barons worried.  judgment passed in the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court regarding an alleged sugar scam has sent shivers down the spines of sugar barons and several ministers in the state. The court has rejected the bail pleas of the members of board of directors of the Gangapur cooperative sugar factory from Aurangabad district.  For the first time the media links Pratibha Patil with the scam

Sant Muktabai SSK led by Ms Pratibha Patil have been given notices the central excise

The central authorities are going ahead with penal action as well as criminal prosecution in these cases while the state government is dragging its feet due to the alleged involvement of political heavy weights.

28th October 2002 Economic Times – Further media reports about the matter being hushed up.

5 Nov 2002 Times of India – Shiv Sena once again demands a CBI probe. Sharad Yadav Union Minister is reported as saying

“The board has, in a letter to me, said that it would initiate criminal proceedings against the erring sugar cooperative factories,’’

11 Nov 2002 Economic Times – More Sena allegations on irregularities at Sugar Co-Ops

25 Nov 2002 Economic Times – A special team from the department of revenue under the Union finance ministry will investigate the entire sugar export scam involving co-operative sugar mills from Maharashtra.
28 Nov 2002 Economic Times – Maharashtra Governor asks State Government for action taken report amidst concerns that The state government has been accused of not trying very hard to unearth the scam.

09 Dec 2002 Economic Times – Maharashtra tightens sugar export norms to prevent another scam.

11 Dec 2002 Economic Times – The probe into Sugar Co-ops expanded to last 5 years. First report of Muktabai SSK having paid duties to settle the case.

18 Dec 2002 Economic TimesFirst media report on Sugar Co-op Loans and Government guarantee to these loans putting the finances of the state at risk.

19 Dec 2002 Economic Times – Maharashtra Government admits anomalies in Sugar Co-ops promises criminal investigations

5 months of silence on the scam.

12 May 2003 Economic Times – The CBI is expected to begin investigation into sugar co-operative scam in Maharashtra. For the first time Gidwani alleges Forgery of documents.

14 Jun 2003 Times of IndiaFirst report of a PIL in Maharashtra HC. The HC asks Govt to reply as to why the probe was stayed.

14 Jun 2003 Times of India – Ramesh Gaikwad the Commissioner who started the probe is transfered. First media report alleging that Gaikwad was preparing to act on Management of Sugar Co-Ops.

Some NCP members are thought to have wanted Mr Gaikwad to be removed because he was preparing to take action against the managements of sugar cooperatives that allegedly mishandled funds running into several crore rupees. Among other targets, Mr Gaikwad was keen on taking action against those responsible for the alleged mismanagement of the Jalgaon district cooperative bank

20 Jun 2003 Times of India – Gidwani alleges that the Govt was looking for excuses to not take criminal action against Sugar Co-Ops.

Gidwani pointed out that sugar co-operatives cannot shirk responsibility for the scam because an exporter gets a release order from the Union government only after he enters into an agreement with a sugar factory for supply of sugar for export.

15 Jul 2003 Economic Times – Food Min completes probe of Sugar scam for one Co-Op. Probe into the remaining 11 is still pending. First signs of contradictions between the investigating officers and the Sugar lobby.

Mr Singhal had also earlier clarified that should collusion be established between managements, exporters and even government officials, they would all be named in the

His clarification had set at rest confusion over the role of managements and their liability in the case. The Maharashtra Rajya Sakhar Sangh (sugar federation) had maintained that the exporters alone were liable.

At this point it becomes very clear that the Sugar Lobby has managed to stave off any liability of the managements in the scandal and ensured that all the blame was ascribed to Sugar Exporters, this is key as this is where the likes of Pratibha Patil are let off the hook.

15 Jul 2003 Times of India – Confirms FIRs to be filed against exporters

After this the scandal on the original 12 Sugar Co-Ops that included Muktabai pretty much goes out of public glare and the focus shifts to a few specific co-ops and banks that Anna Hazare alleges were involved in even more scams.

21 Aug 2003 – Gidwani approaches Arun Jaitley and Sharad Yadav for action against Sugar Co-ops.

The Centre, in a directive to the co-operative secretary, had asked the state to initiate criminal proceedings against the sugar co-operatives and the export houses involved. “But even after clear instructions, the state government is shying away from taking action against sugar co-operatives due to political compulsions,” Mr Gidwani said.
27 Dec 2003 Times of India -  Fed up with the state government’s delaying tactics in pulling up the 21 factories involved in the diversion of sugar earmarked for export, the Union ministry for food and civil supplies has ordered the district collectors concerned to file criminal cases against the factories. Interestingly Muktabai and Jalgaon are not mentioned in this report, unclear if they were part of the 21.
12 Jan 2004 Times of India – Talks of Criminal cases yet to be filed

27 Feb 2004 – Sugar Commissioner spills beans that CM Deshmukh stayed action against Sugar Factories.

After March 2004 with the fall of the NDA Government the probes slow down even further. The focus is pretty much on few Ministers and Anna Hazares tirades all of which is invesitgated by the Sawant Commission. The original scam and factories pretty much fade away into the background.

30 Jul 2004 – HC again directs Govt to take action.

Offstumped Bottomline: That was pretty much it. The Sugar scam pretty much looses steam.

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