Never used chartered flights to travel to Nagpur for personal works in pandemic: Ex-Maha minister Raut to HC
Former Maharashtra energy minister Nitin Raut on Monday told the Bombay High Court he had used chartered flights to travel to Nagpur during the COVID-19 pandemic for attending official assignments and not for any personal work.
Raut, a Congress leader from Nagpur, made the submission in an affidavit filed in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) submitted by state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) media cell chief Vishwas Pathak alleging misuse of official power by the former minister and use of chartered flights during the pandemic for personal works.
Pathak, in the petition, claimed Raut had pressurized the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) and three other state units, where were then under his administrative control, to bear the expenditure of the chartered flights.
The PIL sought a direction to these energy companies to recover from Raut the amounts allegedly spent “illegally” on these chartered flights.
The petitioner's advocate on Monday told a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar that Raut had used chartered flights on 12 occasions and a sum of Rs 3 crore was spent.
The Congress MLA from North Nagpur denied he had taken the chartered flights to attend personal works or that the companies were pressurized into paying for his trips.
''I deny that the expenditure incurred for the chartered flights was illegal, arbitrary and gross waste of public funds,'' he said in the affidavit.
The former minister said Pathak has already filed complaints against him with the Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs and the BKC police in Mumbai and hence he has availed of the alternate remedies available to him.
Both the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and the Mumbai police are seized of the matter and hence the HC need not hear the plea, the Congress leader maintained.
The affidavit further claimed the petitioner (Pathak) was the media head of the Maharashtra BJP, which is a rival political party (of Congress), and the petition was filed to settle political scores.
Raut said being the guardian minister of Nagpur at the time, he had to travel to the district in eastern Maharashtra routinely for administrative work.
''On the relevant occasions, I had travelled to Nagpur for administrative work which included overseeing of day-to-day functions of the power companies and to resolve issues brought about by the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Nisarga cyclone (which hit coastal Maharashtra in June 2020). This was to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity,'' the affidavit said.
It added that ordinarily, Raut travels to Nagpur by commercial flight or train.
''At that time, since commercial flights were not operating (due to coronavirus-related curbs) and owing to the urgency of the situation, I was forced to travel by chartered flights,'' Raut said.
The former cabinet minister claimed even during the lockdown, the energy sector had to work round the clock as it fell under the category of essential services and that he had to keep travelling to Nagpur to ensure uninterrupted administrative work of the state-run electricity companies.
Raut maintained he had to take chartered flights to travel to Nagpur for launching the 'Mission Oxygen', a project for ensuring supply of the life-saving medical gas for critical patients during the pandemic.
The court posted the matter for hearing on October 10.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)