Railway Board Member Mahesh Kumar suspended after arrest in bribery case
New Delhi, May 5, 2013
The Ministry of Railways has placed Railway Board Member (Staff) Mahesh Kumar, who was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday night in an alleged corruption case, under suspension with immediate effect.
This was done on Saturday after receipt of the official report in the matter from the CBI, Indian Railways spokesperson Anil Saxena said.
He said Mr Subodh Jain, Member (Engineering) would hold charge of the post of Member (Staff), while Mr R C Agarwal, General Manager, North-Western Railway, would hold charge of the post of General Manager, Western Railway, Mumbai, which was held by Kumar before he took over as Member (Staff), Railway Board on May 2.
In what has become a major embarrassment for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre, the CBI arrested Kumar on Friday night for allegedly paying a bribe of Rs 90 lakh to Vijay Singla, the Chandigarh-based nephew of Railways Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.
According to the CBI, Kumar paid the amount as the first instalment of a total bribe of Rs 10 crore for getting the post of Member (Electrical) which is likely to fall vacant in the Railway Board in a couple of months.
Apart from Kumar and Singla, the CBI arrested four others on the same day in connection with the case, including Narain Rao Manjunath, the Managing Director of a Bangalore-based private firm that has dealings with the Railways.
Four of the accused -- Singla, Sandip Goyal, Dharmendra Kumar and Vivek Kumar -- were produced before a Delhi court yesterday and remanded in CBI custody for four days.
While Kumar was arrested when he landed in Mumbai from Delhi that night, Manjunath was picked up from Bangalore.
The CBI had registered a case under section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections 7, 18, 10 of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Kumar, Singla and the others, on the basis of information received by the agency.
The CBI said in a press release yesterday that it was alleged that Singla had demanded an illegal gratification of Rs 10 crore from Mr Kumar, who was then General Manager of Western Railway in Mumbai, for securing him the post of Member (Electrical) in the Railway Board.
Kumar was, in the meanwhile, appointed Member (Staff) of the Railway Board and ex-officio Secretary to the Government of India and had taken charge of his new assignment on May 2.
According to the CBI, Kumar requested Singla and his associates that until he is appointed as Member (Electrical), he should be given the additional charge of General Manager, Western Railway and Signalling and Telecommunication (S&T).
Singla allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs 2 crore immediately and the balance amount for appointment to the post of Member (Electrical) later.
The release said Kumar allegedly arranged for Rs 2 crore from Manjunath and other businessmen and industrialists dealing with the Railways for making the payment to Singla and his associates. Manjunath agreed to arrange the money in lieu of official favours, the release said.
According to the release, Manjunath could arrange only Rs 90 lakh, which was to be paid to Singla on Friday at Chandigarh on behalf of Kumar.
The CBI laid a trap and Singla and his associate were caught after allegedly having accepting the amount of Rs 90 lakh from two persons acting on behalf of Manjunath.
The release said searches were conducted at various places including the residence of Member(Staff) Railway Board at Delhi and Mumbai and connected places of other accused at Chandigarh, Panchkula, Bangalore and Delhi. Incriminating documents have been recovered, it said, adding that further investigations were in progress.
Mr Bansal, 64, who is considered to be amiable and non-controversial, meanwhile, issued a statement to the media yesterday, denying any knowledge about the matter at all.
"Regarding yesterday's incident involving my sister's son in a CBI raid in Chandigarh, I have to say that I had no knowledge or clue about the matter at all. Though a close relative, he or any other relative of mine does not and cannot meddle in my official functions or influence my decisions. There is also no business relationship between his and my family.
"I have always observed highest standards of probity in public life and look forward to an expeditious investigation by CBI in the matter," the four-time MP from Chandigarh said.
Kumar graduated in Electronics & Communication Engineering in 1975 from University of Roorkee (now IIT Roorkee). He belongs to the 1975 batch of Indian Railway Service of Signal Engineers (IRSSE).
An official press release about his appointment as Member (Staff) said Kumar had extensive technical, project related and administrative experience in Railways having worked in several challenging assignments such as Executive Director/Signal, Railway Board, Executive Director/Telecom, Railway Board, Divisional Railway Manager (Bangalore), Chief Administrative Officer, Indian Railway Project Management Unit, Delhi and Additional Member (Signal), Railway Board.
The case could not have come at a worse time for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Government, which is already reeling under allegations about wrongdoing in the matter of allocation of 2G spectrum and coal blocks to private firms for captive mining.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promptly demanded the resignation of Mr Bansal. It said Dr Singh should not only sack Mr Bansal but also ensure that he is prosecuted.
Congress General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi pointed out to newspersons that Mr Bansal had already clarified his position and also sought an expeditious investigation by the CBI in the matter. "We cannot expect him to do anything more," he said.
As for the demands for Mr Bansal's resignation, Mr Dwivedi said making such demands had become a habit for some parties.
Mr Bansal had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and later the members of the Congress core group to give his side of the story. During his meeting with Dr Singh, he is understood to have offered to step down during the pendency of the CBI probe into the matter. The Congress is expected to take a final decision on this by tomorrow, sources said.