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First FIR Lodged in Electoral Bond Scheme by CBI for Alleged Bribery

First FIR Lodged in Electoral Bond Scheme by CBI for Alleged Bribery

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 13: As the first fall-out of the Narendra Modi government’s electoral bond scheme, which the Supreme Court has declared “unconstitutional” and stopped, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed an FIR for alleged bribery case against a Hyderabad-based company which was the second biggest buyer company of the electoral bonds with the lion’s share going to the BJP and most of the opposition parties are also not untouched.

Besides the Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd, the CBI has also named eight officials of the NISP and NMDC and two officials of MECON in the FIR for receiving alleged bribe of around ₹ 78 lakh in clearing bills of ₹ 174 crore of Megha Engineering in connection with works related to Jagdalpur integrated steel plant, officials said on Saturday.

Megha Engineering which was the second-biggest buyer of electoral bonds worth ₹ 966 crore, had donated the highest amount of about ₹ 586 crore to the BJP, according to the data released by the Election Commission on March 21. The company had also donated ₹ 195 crore to BRS, ₹ 85 crore to DMK, and ₹ 37 crore to YSRCP. The TDP got about ₹ 25 crore from the company, while the Congress got ₹ 17 crore. The JD-S, Jana Sena Party and the JD-U got smaller sums ranging from ₹ 5 crore to ₹ 10 crore.

According to the FIR made public on Saturday, the CBI had registered a preliminary enquiry on August 10, 2023 about the alleged bribery in ₹ 315 crore project related to works of intake well and pump house and cross-country pipeline at the integrated steel plant Jagdalpur which was awarded to the company.

Based on the findings of the preliminary enquiry, a recommendation was made on March 18 to register a regular case into the alleged bribery which was filed on March 31. The CBI has named eight officials of NISP and NMDC Ltd — retired executive director Prashant Dash, director (production) DK Mohanty, DGM PK Bhuyan, DM Naresh Babu, senior manager Subro Banerjee, retired CGM (finance) L Krishna Mohan, GM (finance) K Rajshekhar and manager (finance) Somnath Ghosh, who allegedly received ₹ 73.85 lakh bribe.

The agency has also named two officials of MECON Ltd – AGM (contracts) Sanjeev Sahay and DGM (contracts) K Illavarsu – who allegedly received payment of ₹ 5.01 lakh against the payment of ₹ 174.41 crore by NMDC Ltd to MEIL against 73 invoices from Subhash Chandra Sangras, general manager, MEIL and Megha Engineering and unknown others. Mr Chandra and Megha Engineering have also been named as accused in the case.

Meanwhile, the defence minister Rajnath Singh defended the government’s electoral bonds scheme and said the time would decide the benefits of the scheme. He also said the central government did not regret its decision. “Time will decide the benefits of the scheme. We do not have any regrets,” he said.

When asked about the Supreme Court’s allegations of ‘quid pro quo’, Rajnath Singh said, “If the Supreme Court has taken cognizance, let it decide. We are not against the Supreme Court. Whatever they decide, we’ll accept it. There are some people who are saying that the names are not being disclosed. Names should be disclosed. So maybe tomorrow the time will come when people will ask who has given votes to whom? This should also be disclosed.”

The Electoral Bond Scheme was a way for political parties in India to get money without revealing the donor’s identity. But, the Supreme Court, in a ruling in February, struck down the Centre’s Electoral Bond Scheme and ordered the SBI to stop issuing Electoral Bonds immediately.

In compliance with a directive from the Supreme Court, the Election Commission of India (ECI) recently uploaded data on electoral bonds to its official website. The State Bank of India (SBI) supplied the information, which includes details about these electoral bonds.



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