ANDHRA PRADESH

Stamp scam probe will be taken to its logical conclusion: Goud

HYDERABAD Sept.26. Rejecting the Opposition charges of the Government's inaction and delay in the multicrore stamp paper scam, the Home Minister, T. Devender Goud, on Friday reiterated the Government's commitment to bring to book all those involved, however big they might be. But significantly, he contended that there was no mention of the ruling party legislator, C. Krishna Yadav's name in any part of the investigation spread over various States.

In an hour-long reply to the "marathon debate" on the issue in the Assembly, taken up after suspending question hour, Mr. Goud said that the scam was big, extending to nine States and it exposed weaknesses in the system. But it was wrong to say that weak sections of IPC were applied against the key accused Abdul Karim Telgi, enabling him to get bail. He said Sections 420, 471, 468, 260 and 428 of IPC were filed against him. When Telgi was arrested in 1999, his bail plea was rejected by lower courts, four times, till the AP High Court granted him conditional bail after his 45-day stay in custody.

Telgi was to report to the Begum Bazar police station initially daily, which was relaxed by the court to weekly once. But when he failed to keep up his commitment, his bail was cancelled, by which time, he had absconded. Referring to members' query on why he was not booked under the Organised Crime Act, the Home Minister said it was not possible as the Act had not come into effect. It was surprising that the Opposition called it "draconian" then and now wanted the provisions invoked. In all, 42 persons were arrested in the case in the State.

He said though the Special Investigation Team of Maharashtra called Yadav for a voice test on April 29, he did not reveal it to anyone and the Government had no intimation. The test was conducted after a tape was seized from Telgi's house. The voice of Yadav matched with the one in the tape and was confirmed by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, leading to his arrest on September 6. Other than the tape, Yadav's name did not crop up anywhere in the investigations in AP, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal, he added.

The Opposition was wrongly portraying as if the effect of the scam was maximum in Andhra Pradesh, he said. The reality was that only Rs.19.66 crores worth of fake stamp papers were seized in the State of which Rs. 10 crores was by Karnataka police, against Rs. 330 crores in Maharashtra, Rs. 204 crores in Karnataka, Rs. 212 crores in Delhi, Rs. 52 crores in Chandigarh.

On the charge that the Government failed to pursue CBI enquiry, he said it was not true and the Chief Minister has written thrice to the Centre seeking CBI probe, once to the Deputy Prime Minister on February 22, 2003. The CBI wanted the appeal to be modified which was done and sent.

He attributed the delay in enquiry by CID, to "overburden of work", with investigation ranging from banks scam, bomb blasts to Deendar Anjuman's activities. As against three cases an investigating officer is expected to handle, he is taking care of 10. The CID had now been revamped. A SIT had been constituted to enquire into all aspects of the stamp per scam till it is taken over by CBI. A senior officer, Kamal Kumar, had also been appointed to look at lapses, if any.

The Revenue Minister, P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju, said the amount involved in the scam was not Rs. 32,000 crores as stated by Congress members. All figures have been "guessetimates" and it was difficult to quantify in view of the complex transactions involving the Accountant General and the Stamps and Registration Department. In 2002-03, there was gap of Rs. 127.64 crores between the revenue of the Accountant-General (Rs.1,352.68 crores) and the Stamps and Registration Department (Rs. 1,225.04 crores). All stamps need not be registered with the Government, like those used for salary disbursement.

Whatever the scam, people's confidence in stamp papers had not fallen but they now depended solely on Government counters. People were not buying stamp papers from private vendors. He said unscrupulous people took advantage of the acute shortage of stamp papers and the demand. The printing of fake stamp papers was such that the Union Home Secretary conceded that they were of "very high quality.''

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