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CBI likely to question Satya Pal Malik in Jammu on Kiru power project scam

Former J&K LG Satya Pal Malik

Srinagar: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is shortly calling former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik to Jammu for questioning over the conduct of different government functionaries in the allotment of Rs 2,240 crore civil works of the Kiru Hydroelectric Power Project in 2019, according to reliable sources.

The CBI, which is investigating as to why the power project on the river Chenab in Jammu’s Kishtwar district was not put to e-tendering as per the government policy and the decision of a Board of Directors meeting, would inquire from Malik why he didn’t refer Kiru and Pakal Dul allotments to an investigating agency when he found things were amiss.

Following Malik’s allegations in public that senior RSS-BJP leader Ram Madhav and former Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu had unsuccessfully influenced him to save the two allotments, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha ordered assignment of investigation into the Kiru power project and the government employees’ medi-claim insurance to the CBI in January 2022.

 After filing two FIRs, CBI questioned Malik in New Delhi on 8 October 2022 and 18 April 2023 about his claim that he had been offered an amount of Rs 300 crore for protecting the two allotments which he cancelled while taking Prime Minister Narendra Modi on board.

On 18 May 2023, the CBI searched the offices and residences of Malik’s former publicity aide Sunak Bali and six chartered accountants in New Delhi and Rajasthan. They had allegedly manipulated the companies’ financial records and made them eligible for competition through fraudulent means. Until now, Malik has not publicly named the individuals who allegedly offered him the bribe money directly or through their bureaucratic contacts or other sources.

Well-placed sources revealed that the CBI would be calling Malik for the third round of questioning in Jammu to carry forward its investigation in the Kiru power project and medi-claim insurance allotments. He is likely to be called in the next two weeks. “This session of questioning will be different in the sense that the previous two sessions were held at his residence in New Delhi”, said an official source.

Some officers, including senior IAS officer Navin Choudhary and at least two directors of the BOD of Chenab Valley Power Projects (P) Ltd (CVPPPL), have already been grilled in the case. Officials said that they would be called for another round of questioning following Malik’s session. Choudhary, who has served as Principal Secretary to the former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed besides being administrative Secretary of Finance and Power departments, has been transferred out of Jammu and Kashmir by LG Manoj Sinha.

The preliminary investigations by the CBI have revealed that in the BOD meeting of CVPPPL in June 2019, all members with the exception of the then Commissioner-Secretary of J&K Government’s Power Development Department, Hridesh Kumar Singh, favoured allotment of the Kiru project works in favour of M/S Patel Engineering Mumbai. Hridesh Kumar pointed out in the same meeting that the project required to be put up for e-tendering and another subsequent competition through ‘reverse auctioning’ as per the government policy.

Singh had also pointed out in the 48th BOD meeting that a decision to put the Kiru project works to e-tendering and reverse auctioning had already been taken in the 47th BOD meeting which needed to be implemented. However, some very influential members in the meeting overruled Singh’s observations and decided to allot the works to M/S Patel Engineering on the basis of manual tenders in which the company had figured as the ‘first lowest (L-1).

Later, one of the Directors initiated a separate note after visiting New Delhi and it was decided to allot the Kiru project works to M/s Patel Engineering. It was decided that the formula of e-tendering with reverse auction would be implemented for projects in future. Weeks after the allotment, there were whispers of wrongdoing in the corridors of power.

The ACB, according to sources, has learned during the preliminary inquiry that Governor Malik called the files of the allotments of Kiru and Pakal Dul power project files, noticed some irregularities, ordered cancellation of one allotment but did not refer the matter for a criminal investigation to any investigation agency. Choudhary, besides former MD of CVPPPL, M.S. Basu, director Arun Kumar Mishra and M/S Patel Engineering have been named as accused in the CBI’s FIR.