Solar street lights scam: Patna HC seeks explanation from state government

Petition demands CBI probe into purchase of substandard lights at inflated cost

By Alok Gupta
Published: Friday 05 April 2013

Taking cognisance of a petition alleging Rs 100 crore scam in installation of solar street lights in Bihar the Patna High Court has directed the state government to submit details of its stand on the matter within 45 days. Nagarik Adhikar Manch, a non-profit has alleged that mukhiyas had purchased sub-standard solar lights at higher cost.

The order was passed earlier this week by the division bench of Justice Shivaji Prakash and Justice Navin Sinha while hearing a public interest petition seeking a CBI probe into the scam. 

The petition alleges that sub-standard solar panels and batteries were purchased at a low cost but the bill raised for the purchase was higher than the actual purchase bill. The specifications given by the state energy department regarding the standard of solar panels and batteries to be purchased were flouted too.

Dinu Kumar, representing the petitioner, submitted to the court that a majority of mukhiyas in Vaishali, Bhojpur and Buxar had purchased low quality solar panels and batteries. The petition also indicated a large number of discrepancies in the cost price of solar panels. Counsel submitted that mukhiyas, the block development officer and the district magistrate had declared that solar street lights were purchased at a price of Rs 26,000, Rs 32,000 and Rs 48,000 respectively.

80 per cent street lights lie defunct

Petitioners have also informed the court that nearly 80 per cent solar street lights were lying defunct within six months of installation. “Solar lights stopped working because quality of its panel and batteries were extremely poor,” says petitioner Shiv Prakash Rai, convener of Nagrik Adhikar Manch.

Rai says that the solar street light scam was exposed in 2010 but till date the Bihar government has taken very little action. “Similar writ petitions were also filed by activists of various districts,” he adds.

The district administration in Sitamarhi had lodged an FIR against the mukhiyas in 2010. Police in their investigation had found at least 20 cases in which mukhiyas had sold batteries of the solar street lights.

In August 2011, a single division bench of the high court had ordered the immediate arrest of 233 mukhiyas in Sitamarhi district for purchasing low quality solar street lights. Around seven writ petitions were filed in the court seeking the execution of the order of Sitamarhi’s chief judicial magistrate. 

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