SC dismisses special leave petition of Helios and Matheson

The recent order by the apex court paves way to restart proceedings against the accused, including H&M's chairman V Ramachandran, in the vMoksha case

The Supreme Court has dismissed the special leave petitions (SPL) filed by Helios & Matheson Information Technology Ltd (H&M) and Pawan Kumar, the then chief executive officer of vMoksha Technologies. Both have challenged the Bombay High Court (HC) order, which allowed the revision application of vMoksha’s co-founder Rajiv Sawhney against H&M.

Dismissing the SPLs, the apex court said, “In the result, we see no reason to interfere with the order passed by the High Court in exercise of our jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.”

In an order passed on 6 May 2011, the HC had restored an order passed by the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) of the 47th Court at Mumbai, to restart proceedings against the accused, including H&M's chairman V Ramachandran.

While dismissing the SLPs, the SC said, “It is interesting to note that even in the present SLPs the petitioner has filed an unsigned copy of the alleged minutes of the meeting   dated 19th July, 2005. We do not think that we can possibly look into that document without proper proof and without verification of its genuineness. There was and is no clear and unequivocal admission on the record, at least none was brought to our notice, regarding the genuineness of the document or its probative value.”

 Earlier, Justice JH Bhatia of the Bombay HC in an order had said, “The Additional Sessions Judge, on the basis of facts disclosed in the complaint, had also come to the conclusion that a prima facie case was made out. Having come to such a conclusion, the judge embarked upon the consideration of other grounds and quashed the order, which was well-reasoned and based on facts disclosed in the complaint. Therefore, in my opinion, it is a fit case where this Court should, under its inherent power under Section 482, interfere and quash the order passed by the Additional Sessions Judge.”

Moneylife had previously reported about the bruising battle between H&M and Rajeev Sawhney.

The case dates back to 2005, when shareholders of vMoksha, an IT company, decided to sell its three units. The company appointed PriceWaterhouseCooper, who found out H&M as potential buyer for vMoksha's three units. On 11 May 2005, both the companies signed a share purchase agreement under which V Ramachandran, chairman of H&M, was to pay $19 million for the three units, out of which $4 million was to be paid to Pawan Kumar, the then chief executive of vMoksha and also former CEO of the controversial DSQ Software, as earn out. Although, Pawan Kumar and his family members were also stakeholders in vMoksha, Mr Sawhney later bought out their stake as well.
Mr Ramachandran was supposed to pay $13.4 million to Mr Sawhney, after paying some amount to Tapan Garg and Madhuri Garg, son and wife of Pawan Kumar for their holding. Mr Sawhney soon realised that he had been kept in the dark about many aspects of the deal. For instance, he found that instead of receiving $19 million, a bank account had been 'fraudulently' opened in the State Bank of Mauritius in vMoksha's name and used to borrow $13.5 million, using a fake board sanction and false entries. That money was remitted to H&M ostensibly for subscription of redeemable preference shares on 28 June 2005.
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Moneylife had also reported on how the market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), had fined H&M Rs50 lakh for making false announcements to influence the stock price and hiding information about acquisition of vMoksha.

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    Varkaris urge Maharashtra CM to stop loot at toll booths

    In a memorandum, the Varkari Sampraday, Grahak Panchayat and Krantivir Prathisthan among others, alleged under reporting, especially of vehicle traffic and toll collected so far, by the toll collection agencies across the state

    Commuters, farmers and Varkaris (devotees who make walking pilgrimages) had appealed the Maharashtra chief minister (CM) to take immediate and corrective steps to stop the rampant looting done under the guise of toll collection on various roads across the state. In a memorandum, the Varkari Sampraday, Grahak Panchayat and Krantivir Prathisthan among others, alleged under reporting, especially of vehicle traffic and toll collected so far, by the toll collection agencies across Maharashtra.

    The memorandum says that as per information provided by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), during 2000 to 2011, contractors for the toll collection have already recovered the cost for 39 toll booths and the percentage of toll collection to cost is around 243.4%. On an average, the ratio for toll collected so far comes is in the range of 150% and 600% for each toll booth in just in four to seven years and according to the tender documents, the contractors will continue to collect the toll tax for another 14 to 22 years.

    On Monday, Maharashtra PWD minister Jaydutt Kshirsagar informed the state assembly that even though the government had recovered Rs1,205 crore out of the Rs1,242 crore it spent on building flyovers and bridges in Mumbai, citizens would have to pay toll tax at the entry and exit points of the metro till September 2027. Similarly, for the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which was built at a cost of Rs2,123 crore by the MSRDC, contractors have recovered Rs1,095 so far and will continue to collect toll tax till 30 April 2030, the minister informed the assembly.

    The minister was replying to allegations from the opposition parties about the massive corruption in toll collection at roads in Mumbai, Thane and Raigad districts. Eknath Khadse (BJP), leader of opposition, said the corruption figure could be pegged at around Rs10,000 crore and demanded a probe by a high-power committee.
    According to the memorandum sent by the Varkari Sampraday, Grahak Panchayat and Krantivir Prathisthan, majority of the toll booths in Maharashtra are in bad condition and are without any sign boards, complaint book and at many places a computerised receipt is issued without mentioning the amount.

    Incidentally, all toll booths in Maharashtra have unanimously hiked the toll rates through a notification issued on 17 March 2011, however, the toll collection period remained same. In addition, the contractors are often found to follow government guidelines, especially for returning vehicles. According to the guidelines, the contractor is bound to give 50% concession in toll tax to a vehicle that is returning to the same booth within 24 hours. However, all contractors make 12 midnight as the deadline for the mandated 24-hour period. Therefore a vehicle, which may enter to toll booth at 10pm and return at 1am the same night, is denied the concession by all contractors.

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    p k

    9 years ago

    i am shocked at the toll colected at satara was rs 45 at Khed shivapur, now made rs 65/-!!

    also further near \kolhapur one has to pay 2 times rs 58/-!! distance between the toll booth is less than 50 km. i do not understand the logic. cost of toll is equivalent to one person bus ticket.

    it is daylight robbery.
    for pune mumbai , there is no return toll ie one has to pay the toll 2 times.

    Well done, Sagria—the ghost farm pond whistleblower of Odisha

    In the innocuous Kusmal village of Odisha, young Khirasindhu Sagria uses RTI to expose the scandal of several ghost farm ponds which were never built but he is instead rewarded with harassment and threats from government functionaries

    Sagria Khirasindhu is a young Dalit villager residing in the innocuous Kusmal village of Nuapada district in West Odisha. Most of the 298 households that comprise Kusmal are eligible to be the beneficiaries of the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) much tom-tommed scheme for the rural poor, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) commonly termed as NREGA, as its residents comprise Dalits and tribals. In fact, in Nuapada district alone, there are 1,12,842 job card holders under this scheme for which the UPA government in its 2010-2011 budget has allocated Rs40,100 crore to cover entire rural India.

    Portrayed as the world’s largest rural employment scheme undertaken by any government, the NREGA has predictably been mired in corruption, financial irregularities, siphoning off money by village-level officers and worse, non-construction or poor construction of development works, in most states in India. You may see this link from the official website of NREGA which gives examples of shoddy work across India and shows the callousness with which it is handled—http://nrega.nic.i/MGNREGA_WORKS_DRAFT_MANUAL12.pdf

    Construction of farm ponds to facilitate water conservation is one of the various works undertaken under the NREGA (See Box 3 for list of works under NREGA).  Seven farm ponds were sanctioned by the Gram Panchayat to be built in the private lands of seven marginal farmers of Kushal village in Khairar Block in the year 2007. However, till date all of these remain ghost farm ponds, as the villagers term them, meaning—non-existent farm ponds. However, payment of over Rs2 lakh has already been pocketed by village level government functionaries.

    The Centre sent a monitoring team to conduct investigation into the Kushal ghost farm ponds scandal, on the complaint of activists spearheaded by Ajit Kumar Panda. As a result, two block development officers, one additional block development officer and the assistant engineer were suspended. The junior engineer and the Gram Sathi (friend of the village) were disengaged. However, no action has been taken against the collector. In fact, recently, the suspended officials have been reinstated. The corruption may seem miniscule against the backdrop of the mammoth second generation (2G) and Commonwealth Games scam but such micro-level scams in NREGA together make up for an equally large scandal. Hence, Sagria’s role as a whistleblower attains significance.

    Sagria who courageously invoked the Right to Information Act (RTI) to find out the status of payments made for these seven ghost farm ponds has been recently given a show-cause notice by the collector of Nuapada district demanding why the activist’s name should not be included in a list, which the collector is preparing, concerning “persons encouraging litigation in the grama (village)”. He has also been booked for rape and snatching of a mangalsutra by a woman Gram Sathi who, along with her husband and brother-in-law, is an illegal beneficiary of NREGA wages meant for the workers who were to build the seven farm ponds.

    So, what did Sagria do to deserve ire of the government babus? RTI activist Ajit Kumar Panda and founder, Krushaka Sakti Sangathan is the pillar of support for Sagria. Narrating the chronology of Sagria’s campaign he states:

    “An amount of Rs2.45 lakh was sanctioned @Rs35,000 for each farm pond. Work order was issued in the name of the junior engineer of the block. When the list was finalised, the Gram Sathi of the village instructed the beneficiaries to begin the work in the first week of May, 2008.
    “The 1st phase of bribing: The beneficiaries wanted to do the work themselves and thus started digging. But the husband of the Gram Sathi —Jogeswar Sagria asked the beneficiaries to stop the work after some days and said that the beneficiaries could get the full payment even without digging the farm pond. He asked the beneficiaries to pay Rs5,000  each. With the fear that Jogeswar might influence the block development officer (BDO) to delete their names from the beneficiary list, the beneficiaries paid Rs5,000 each to Jogeswar (totalling Rs35,000) and stopped the digging.

    “The second phase of bribing: The measurement was done by the concerned junior engineer and roughly a bill of Rs10,000 for each pond was passed by the BDO, Khariar block (on the basis of junior engineer’s measurement and the muster rolls prepared by the Gram Sathi) for payment of wages to the labourers on 30 August 2008 i.e. after 105 days of the completion of the first phase (9 May 2008 to 15 May 2008.) The wages were transferred by the block to the bank accounts of the workers. Most of the works in this first phase had been done by the beneficiaries themselves. Thus the wage amount went to their accounts. The Gram Sathi demanded more bribe and in this second phase of bribing the beneficiaries paid between Rs3,000 to Rs4,000 each with the hope that the final bills of payment will be made soon. They hoped that they will construct the ponds after the final payment.

    “Information obtained on RTI: When the work did not resume, Mr Sagria applied to the PIO, Khariar block seeking information on payments made. He was provided the information on 7th November. It was found that more than Rs.2.13 lakh have already been paid to labourers for construction of the seven farm ponds. Careful study of the muster rolls, procured under RTI, revealed that, they have been manipulated both in the 1st and 2nd phases. Names of dead persons and teachers and students of the local school have been entered in the muster rolls. Name of same persons appear in a number of muster rolls. (How could he be working on different projects the same day?)

    “Grievance to BDO/collector: The villagers reported this matter to the BDO but no action was taken within seven days as per the Act. After it was reported to the collector, an inquiry was conducted. Various authorities under the collector visited the village one after another, but no action was taken to punish the culprits. Rather, to suppress the matter, the junior engineer was caught red-handed trying to construct the farm pond by using a machine, in the dead of the night. (Use of machine is not permitted under the NREGA scheme)

    “Death threat and Police case against Mr Sagria: To harass Mr Sagria who availed information through RTI, Gram Sathi Rina Mandal filed a case against him in the local police station (attempt to rape and snatching of a mangalsutra). Chandan Sagria elder brother of Jogeswar and his wife filed another case of attempt to murder in the police station against Mr Sagria and other six villagers supporting the cause. Mr Sagria was also threatened by another brother of Jogeswar (Narahari Sagria) a teacher in a primary school and president of the district primary teachers association.  

    “Intervention of the support group at Khariar: We have an informal support group at Khariar (consisting of social activists, lawyers, journalists and lecturers) to extend all sorts of support to the beneficiaries and the social activists working at village level on various issues;

    “The support group at Khariar initiated the following steps,

    1.    Conducted regular village meetings to encourage the villagers and the beneficiaries to maintain unity.
    2.    Conducted press meet and motivated the media to focus on the issue persistently.
    3.    Persuaded the members of the support groups to demand information from the BDO about action taken on the complaint of villagers.
    4.    Used Google OREGA watch group as a forum for discussion by providing information on day to day development.
    5.    Continuously wrote to the secretary Panchayati Raj sending copies to the joint secretary, MORD, New Delhi and some of the members of Central Employment Guaranty Council.

    The continuous efforts finally resulted in the visit of director, special project, NREGA to Kusmal village to conduct inquiry. But surprisingly after the visit, the Khariar police is planning to charge-sheet Mr Sagria on the cases filed against him. This was in spite of the assurance provided by the director that no police action would be initiated against Mr Sagria.

    Now, Mr Panda asks, “what will Mr Sagria do now? Go to the high court for an anticipatory bail which officials know he cannot afford? Or allow the police to arrest him? The perpetrators and the police are trying their best to put Mr Sagria behind bars as they feel such action will create in others to campaign against the corrupt. However, we have decided to help him move the high court.”

    Mr Sagria though remains undeterred. Recently, he obtained the records of a tank renovation work undertaken at Khudpej Panchayat in Khariar block under NREGA. The expenditure shown in the muster roll was Rs80,000. He placed the muster roll before the villagers and the villagers found that half of the signatures in the roll were fabricated. The information revealed that the officials involved in the tank renovation work had swindled Rs40,000.

    A classic example of why a strong Lokpal Bill with the entire lower bureaucracy under it and with independent investigative powers is the urgent need of the country soaked in corruption.

    Some examples of irregularities and manipulations in farm ponds in Odisha as reported by Ajit Kumar Panda to the ministry of rural development: {break}

     Irregularities in farm ponds:
     1. Farm pond of Dhusasan Bag Village: Jharsaram Block: Khariar, Gram Panchayat: Birighat
     Year of Work: 2007-08   
     Estimated Cost: Rs35,000
     Expenditure Incurred as per Muster Roll (MR): An amount of Rs32,260 has been shown as expenditure in the muster rolls and bills of payment.
     Approximate Cost as per the Size of Farm Pond: The size reveals that the expenditure is less than Rs10,000. Verification of muster roll reveals that names of dead and old persons have been entered.
     Examples of Manipulation in MR:
    1.    Hari Majhi: Dead since long. He has been paid Rs607.00
    2.    Nirekha Jagat: A paralysed man unable to move from bed for more than seven years. (Rs900)
    3.    Nimesh Sunani: About 10 years old residing at Khariar in school (Rs450)
    4.    Takemani Bag: A student in Khariar school.(Rs950)
    5.    Asha Jagat : More than 70 years (Rs450)
    6.    Kamu Bag: No one is in this name.
    7.    Tulu Bag: Student reading in class V.
    8.    Dhaneswar Bag: No one in this name is found in this village.
    9.    Family members of Gaon Sathi have not worked in the farm pond but have been paid lion’s share of the wage.


     2. Farm pond of Jamindar Tandi

    Village: Pakhansar  Gram Panchayat: Nehena, Khariar Block

     Expenditure Made by Panchayat Samiti: Rs18,933
     Manipulation in MR: Eight people have worked in total for seven days. Four of them have earned Rs428.57 each per day! Three labourers have earned wage of 285.71 each per day

    Enquiring about the high wage, we found out that the farm pond has been dug with a machine It still carries the marks of the machine. The MR is a total manipulation.

    The villagers said that, they did not know that the digging by the machine was for constructing the pond. The soil in that land was of Murum quality. The contractor took that hard soil (Murum) for the road work. “And the farm pond was dug.”

    Further inquiry revealed that, the soil conservation department has also dug one more farm pond in the land of Jamindar utilising NREGS fund (Rs14,756).

    3.Farm pond of Amarsing Majhi
    Village: Bad Dohel Gram Panchayat: Nehena  Block: Khariar   
    Two farm ponds have been sanctioned in the name of Amarsing Majhi with two separate work codes. The executing agency is the soil conservation office, Khariar
    Estimated Cost: Rs35,000 for each pond as per the information of Amarsing
    Expenditure shown in the MR: Rs21,135 in the first one; Rs32,010.00 in the second one. But only one has been constructed— 60 ft length x 45 ft wide x 8 ft depth


    4. Farm pond of Mana Sagria
     Village: Bad Dohel Gram Panchayat: Nehena Block: Khariar
     Estimated Cost: Rs35,000
     Expenditure shown in the MR:  Rs35,000
     Actual Size: 50 ft length x 50 ft wide x 3 ft depth


    5. Farm pond of Lalu Majhi
    Village:Sukli Bhata Gram Panchayat:Litisargi   Block: Boden
    Estimated Cost: Rs35,000
    Expenditure shown in the MR: Rs18,451
    No work has been done


    6. Farm pond of Bijaya Prakash Nanda
    Village: Anlabhata Gram Panchayat: Litisargi  Block: Boden
    Estimated Cost: Rs35,000
    Expenditure shown in the MR: Rs.32560
    Actual expenses according to eye estimate: Less than Rs5,000


    7. Farm pond of Dhaneswar Nanda.
    Village: Anlabhata Gram Panchayat: Litisargi, Block: Boden
    Estimated Cost: Rs35,000
    Expenditure shown in the MR: Rs33600

    Some other examples of irregularities in villages Chatiaguda, Sagunbahdi and Mahulpada, Block- Sinapali, Dist  Nuapada 



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    Bhalachandra Singde

    9 years ago

    Vo Ek Musaphir Aur Mai Rasta Yaaro
    Kahatha Basame Mere Use Rokana Yaaro.
    This is the state of Indians and the Politicians of India.
    Mahatma Gandhi had rightly stated that the Congress Party be dismantled and fresh 2 party politics be introduced.


    9 years ago

    I agree with SMukherjee


    9 years ago

    Thanks for your highlighting such corrupt practices. In fact such 'small corruption' at the lowest levels are multiplied millions of times at the national level to bleed the country of hundreds and thousands of crores of rupees. Hardly 10-15% of the amount meant for the 'poor' must be possibly reaching the intended beneficiaries and most of them, as these examples show, are being drawn into a vicious cycle of blackmailing, bribing, threats, false cases, etc.

    In the name of serving the poor such schemes are helping massive loot of the nation by such dishonest insincere govt officials and party soundrels at all levels (top to bottom!). And these must be stopped with an iron hand with particular care being taken not to implicate any innocent victims. A strong Lokpal is long overdue.

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