The abrupt shutting of mining activity, first by then Chief Minister (late) Manohar Parrikar followed by the order of the Supreme Court in September 2012, was subsequently followed by registration of a series of cases into the Rs 35,000 crore iron ore scam.
Several big names came to the fore as then Congress-led government came under direct radar considering that illegal mining was purportedly reported during the tenure of then Chief Ministers Pratapsing Rane and Digambar Kamat until BJP took over in March 2012 and filed cases.
While the industry attempted to crawl back into the business only to fall flat on their face owing to SC’s intervention over two years ago, the investigation continued uninterrupted with some bigwigs in the trade, political and bureaucratic circle named as accused.
In the last eight years of the probe, the Crime Branch’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) charge sheeted the high-profile cases whereas the main case comprising 187-odd leases is under investigation. The case was recently distributed among four police inspectors to speed up the probe.
With the Mines Department taking the lead to book offenses in July 2013, the Crime Branch began registering offenses in August 2013 that soon followed the formation of SIT to exclusively investigate the cases.
From 16 cases registered, seven cases are currently pending trial before the Special Court while in another illegal mining case, the High Court of Bombay at Goa upheld Sessions Court’s order to discharge Arjun and Sameer Salgaoncar as accused.
A First Information Report (registered against senior Congress leader late Jitendra Deshprabhu was quashed as another similar FIR was already registered against him. A chargesheet in yet another case was quashed by the court.
But in three cases which had senior congress leaders Pratapsing Rane and Digambar Kamat and directors/representatives of M/s Bagadiya Brothers Pvt Ltd among others as alleged accused, the SIT could not detect the offenses and hence filed A Summary and C Summary. Three other cases were transferred to the respective police stations.
With the voluminous cases being dragged for years, the government had a year and half back designated the District Court-I and Additional Sessions Judge, South Goa Edgar Fernandes as the Special Court for speedy trial of these illegal mining cases.