The Telangana High Court today pulled up the state government and the concerned officials for initiating an "unlawful" enquiry into former Health Minister Etala Rajender's alleged land grabbing.
The court pointed out that the enquiry into Rajender's Jamuna Hatcheries, located in Masaipet, in Medak district, was unlawful as the latter had not, in his capacity as the owner of the hatchery, been officially informed about the probe.
Expressing its discontent at the way the report was generated and the initial probe was conducted, it even junked the report
submitted by Medak Collector S Harish, which was based on the findings of a probe conducted on May 1 and 2, and then directed the government to initiate a fresh enquiry after issuing official notices to the hatchery.
The officials, who were rebuked for violating legal norms, were also told to conduct the new investigation to find the truth behind the land-grabbing charges in an unbiased fashion in the presence of the hatchery's management, as per legal procedures.
"The probe was in violation of all established legal norms. It was conducted without first issuing official notices to the company concerned. How was a survey even completed in two days? Did the officials simply sit in their cars and write a report? A new probe must be carried out in accordance with proper legal procedures. No backdoor methods should be used to complete the probe or the survey quickly. Also, the petitioners must be given enough time to defend themselves. Further, the government should not interfere in the functioning of Jamuna Hatcheries or with its business activities in any way," the court warned the state government.
When Advocate General B S Prasad asked what the government was to do if the petitioners did not cooperate with the probe, the court told him that there were lawful methods to ensure compliance.
The government and the officials who had carried out the probe were asked to file a counter affidavit in the matter. Reports say that the case will now be heard again on July 6.
The orders directing the state government not to take cognisance of the Medak Collector's report will certainly be welcomed by Rajender as the report had confirmed the allegations that the former minister had indeed encroached 116 acres land, including 66.1 acres of patta land and 50 acres of assigned lands, for the purpose of expanding his hatchery.
Today's orders were issued after Rajender's wife, Jamuna, and son, Nitin, filed a petition at the court seeking a stay on any "coercive" action against their company.
The move to investigate Rajender came alongside his dismissal
from the state Cabinet. Following his removal, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao had transferred the health portfolio to himself, and Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan had issued orders implementing the changes.