The top official of the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Friday filed an affidavit before Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court, stating that it had not found any "criminal liability" against NCP leader Ajit Pawar in the multi-crore irrigation scam.
Earlier, the ACB's Nagpur and Amravati branches had filed affidavits stating the same, but the petitioners in the case, who have filed a PIL seeking probe in the alleged scam, had demanded that some high-ranking officer file an affidavit.
Pawar, NCP MLA from Baramati, was Water Resources Development Minister during 1999-2009, in Congress-NCP government. His party is now part of the ruling coalition which includes the Shiv Sena and the Congress.
The latest affidavit, filed by ACB Director General Parambir Singh, said the bureau's inquiry found no involvement of Pawar in the alleged scam in the 12 projects undertaken by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
It was alleged that Pawar, then VIDC chairman, and officials of the corporation colluded with contractors while issuing tenders for projects, causing a loss to the exchequer.
As per Singh's affidavit, the ACB probed 159 tenders in total, and registered First Information Reports in 24 cases where irregularities were found.
"As regards role of respondent 7 (Pawar), no criminal liability is disclosed," it said.
In September and again this month, Pawar had replied to questionnaires sent to him by the ACB, it added.
ACB Nagpur had submitted similar affidavit on November 27, a day before the Maha Vikas Aghadi government of the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance was sworn in.
A day before that affidavit was filed, the Devendra Fadnavis-led government, supported by Ajit Pawar who had sprung a surprise by joining hands with the BJP, had collapsed for want of numbers after lasting for only 80 hours.
Reacting to the new affidavit, BJP leader Fadnavis, who is now Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, said it was "misleading".
"The affidavit is misleading and will not stand in the court. We will raise the issue in the legislature," he said here. Winter session of the legislature is underway in Nagpur.
Only government officials were being held responsible for procedural and administrative lapses when documents were signed by the the minister, he said.