Tripura PWD Scam: HC grants bail to former minister Badal Choudhury


AGARTALA | FEB 1, 2020:

The Tripura High Court on Saturday granted bail to veteran CPI-M leader and former minister Badal Choudhury, who was arrested 104 days ago in connection with the multi-crore PWD scam.

After a brief hearing, Justice Arindam Lodh granted conditional bail to Choudhury, an eight-time MLA and ex-minister.

The Tripura Police Crime Branch has been looking for former Tripura Chief Secretary Yash Pal Singh, who was Principal Secretary (PWD) in 2008-09, in connection with the corruption charges in the implementation of projects worth Rs 638 crore.

"From the beginning, we have been maintaining that the case against Choudhury is politically motivated. Our claim has been vindicated as police has failed to file a charge sheet against him and two senior officials even after the Vigilance Wing registered an FIR on October 13 last year," defence lawyer Purosattam Roy Barman told the media after the court order.

He said: "We understand that authorities will not be able to frame an acceptable charge sheet even though the entire administration has been busy in framing the veteran CPI-M leader and others associated with previous Left Front government."

"We have assured the court that Choudhury will cooperate in the ongoing investigation," the senior lawyer said.

In the High Court, the state government's lawyers opposed the bail petition of Choudhury, currently the Deputy Leader of the CPI-M legislature group.

A member of the Tripura Assembly since 1978 and a former Lok Sabha member, Choudhury has been off and on admitted in hospital and lodged in the central jail since he was arrested by the Crime Branch on October 21 last year.

Earlier the High Court and the Special District and Session Court had on several occasions rejected Choudhury's bail plea.

The Vigilance Wing had on October 13 filed an FIR against Choudhury, former Chief Secretary Yash Pal Singh and ex-PWD Chief Engineer Sunil Bhowmik.

Bhowmik was granted bail by the High Court last month. Tripura Police is now looking for Yash Pal Singh, a former IAS officer.

According to Law and Education Minister Ratan Lal Nath, the Public Works Department under the previous Left Front government in 2008-09 had clubbed together 13 projects — five bridges, five buildings and three road projects — slated to be implemented at a total cost of Rs 638 crore on the basis of cost-plus norms.

Terming it the "biggest scam in the history of Tripura", Nath said Rs 164 crore had been siphoned off by those allegedly involved.

On the other hand, leaders of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Congress, including former Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, have said that the Bharatiya Janata Party government had hatched a conspiracy against Choudhury to malign the previous Left governments.

"No corruption took place during the 35-year rule (1978-1988 and 1993-2018) of Left parties in Tripura. Instead, state infrastructure and all other sectors improved," Sarkar told the media.

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