Pune: A petition, accusing Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of transferring salary accounts of state police employees from public sector State Bank of India (SBI) to private sector Axis Bank, where his wife holds high position, has been filed in the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court. In the petition, filed by Mohnish Jabalpure, the social worker has demanded that the government circular issued in this regard should be revoked immediately and and CBI investigation be order into the matter. Jabalpure has also demanded that SBI should declare how many bank accounts of police personnel it has lost to Axis Bank, causing losses to nation.
Jabalpure, who is also an RTI activist from Nagpur, filed the petition on August 7, accusing Fadnavis of arbitrarily directing police staff transfer salary accounts benefiting Axis Bank. As a result, lakhs of police personnel had to transfer their bank accounts to the private sector bank, causing a huge loss to the nationalised bank and thus to exchequer, the petition (seen by this reporter) says. The first hearing on the petition will be held on August 29.
On May 11, the Maharashtra State Police Headquarters issued a circular that said that employees at the State Police Headquarters, Mumbai and the Thane Police Commissionerate had accounts at Axis Bank and had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the bank.
The State Police works under the Home Department, which is headed by the chief minister. As per the MoU, employees having salary accounts at Axis Bank would get accident claim of Rs 30 lakh as well as Rs 1 lakh for children studying below Class 12 standard, Rs 5 lakh for partially handicapped personnel and Rs 30 lakh for fully handicapped, as also Rs 1 crore insurance if an air ticket is bought through Axis Debit Card, as per reports in the media.
According to sources, the circular further says that if police heads -- police commissioners, superintendent etc -- don’t sign a MoU, their employees would not get above benefits.
Speaking with Newsclick, Jabalpure said: “Why didn’t the state police ask SBI itself to provide all the benefits when employees already have accounts with the bank?” He said he had filed an RTI application with the Police Headquarters and the Maharashtra Chief Secretary asking them whether tenders were invited from other banks for proposals like the ones given by Axis Bank.
“I received a response from the Police Headquarters that no such information was available with them. While the Chief Secretary’s Office said the issue was not under its jurisdiction and transferred my request to the Home Department, which said they don’t have this information, and my request was again transferred to the Finance Department. Basically, all departments are giving responses to misguide,” he alleged.
Jabalpure said he was sure that “other nationalised banks or SBI, where currently police employees have accounts, would have given such benefits.”
‘Were Tenders Floated?’
“Besides, the Maharashtra Government in 2004-05, signed an agreement and MoU with 14 banks where employees of state government or departments could open bank accounts. The Finance Department has provided this information to me in response to my RTI. But Axis Bank is not included in this list. Why didn’t the state government opt for a bank from this list of 14?” he asked.
The petitioner accused that CM of taking an “arbitrary” decision without inviting tenders or consulting other departments to “avail benefit to his wife Amruta Fadnavis who is corporate Head, West India, Axis Bank.”
Jabalpure further alleged that the “CM has taken this decision on the direction of his wife. She was an executive cashier at Nagpur Branch earlier and suddenly climbed up to such a high post.”
The RTI activist said the state government and thus the CM should take a decision that is in the public interest and not in the interest of private entities. “Lakhs of accounts have been transferred to Axis Bank and thus this profit has been transferred to the private bank. When a decision is not for public interest then that should be investigated,” he added. The petition also demanded that Axis Bank should provide data of how many new accounts it has got.
Jabalpure also demanded a CBI enquiry into the MoU between the State Government and Axis Bank under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Jabalpure also sought that Amruta Fadnavis be asked to submit all the promotion letters that she received after this circular was issued.
Meanwhile, a police official from Pune told this reporter on request of anonymity that two years ago they were told to open accounts with Axis Bank and were informed that there was a fraud at SBI Bank. However, he declined to talk more on the issue.
Varsha Torgalkar is a freelance journalist based in Pune.