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Goa bureaucrats burnt midnight oil to save minister


Panaji : Senior Goa government bureaucrats burnt the proverbial midnight oil to ensure that Health Minister Vishwajeet Rane was not arrested after he was accused of threatening to kill a lawyer, response to a Right to Information (RTI) query has revealed.

A controversial file on the subject moved by Goa Advocate General Subodh Kantak June 30, was cleared the same day after office hours sometime between 5.30 p.m. till midnight.

Kantak sought that charges against hundreds of people booked under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code since May 2004 – including Minister Rane – be dropped on a single technicality.

While special secretary (home) Diwan Chand made his noting on the file sometime after 5.30 p.m., Law Secretary V.P. Shetye cleared the file at 9.15 p.m.

The file was subsequently forwarded with seeming displeasure by Chief Secretary Hauzel Haukhum to Home Minister Ravi Naik and then on to Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, who cleared it the same night.

The chain of events is revealed in the handwritten notings of the senior bureaucrats and top political executives.

Kantak, in his initial remarks, said that a 2003 amendment to the Section 506, making offences under the section cognisable and non-bailable, had not been published in the government gazette. Hence, the government should instruct the prosecution department to drop hundreds of cases booked under the particular section, including the one against Rane.

Interestingly, Haukhum’s terse noting indicates that the bureaucracy was a divided house while arriving at the decision.

“Instead of favouring the home department of his considered opinion, he (law secretary) has opined that the advocate general’s opinion in any matter is final. Not commenting on the law secretary’s opinion, it is placed on record that the law secretary has not offered his views in the matter, leaving the whole matter unanswered,” Haukhum said, sending the file for further approval to the home minister and the chief minister.

Incidentally, Rane, nicknamed “the prince” in Goa’s political circles, is the son of Goa legislative assembly Speaker Pratapsing Rane, who has also served as chief minister for nearly two decades.

Aires Rodrigues, the lawyer who was threatened, had filed the RTI.