PANAJI: The Bombay High Court at Goa on Wednesday issued notice on a petition filed by the Goa Foundation challenging the decision of the Governor and the Chief Minister to reject the Goa Lokayukta’s order directing that the Anti-Crime Branch register an FIR in the matter of renewal of 88 mining leases.

The Goa Lokayukta had also directed the State government to ensure the investigation was conducted by the CBI.

The writ petition is filed to challenge the orders of the Competent Authority designated under the Goa Lokayukta Act, 2011, namely the order dated 15.4.2020 passed by the competent authority, the Governor of Goa and the undated order passed by the competent authority, the Chief Minister.

Both these competent authorities have, via the impugned orders, rejected both the recommendations and orders of the Lokayukta issued in his report to the Government on the complaint filed by the petitioner (original complainant therein). The petition seeks an order to quash and set aside the two impugned orders.

It was the case of the complainant before the Lokayukta that the orders granting bulk of these second renewals were issued under the signatures of only three persons ie the then Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, then Secretary (Mines) Pavan Kumar Sain and Director of Mines & Geology Prasanna Acharya and the trio were aware that they were indulging in conduct that would benefit and enrich a small class of influential miners and that would result in enormous losses to the public exchequer.

In its investigations, the Lokayukta focused substantially on 56 mining leases whose renewal orders were issued within the span of just one-week ie between 6.1.2015 and 12.1.2015.  In fact, 31 lease renewal orders were issued on 12.1.2015 itself — which is the very date on which the power of the state government to renew mining leases was rescinded by an ordinance requiring states to auction such leases so as to bring enhanced revenues to the public exchequer.

The Lokayukta agreed with the charges made by the complainant and directed the removal of Pawan Kumar Sain and Prasanna Acharya from public office as they were unfit to occupy such posts. These recommendations were made under Section 16 of the Lokayukta Act.

The Lokayukta also directed FIR be registered by the Anti Crime Branch, but that the investigation of the case be handed over by the Government to the CBI. The Governor and the CM both rejected the recommendations and the order for investigation.

The petition seeks an order setting aside the decisions of the two competent authorities. The matter has been posted for further hearing on December 1.