Forgery in state legislature! Sign of the times?

Last week, an unusual complaint stirred the political circles and Vidhan Bhavan premises where legislators are busy attending the Budget Session.

It was over forged signatures of MLCs on two proposals for discussion. One was related with a corporator from Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Corporation and the other was about a rationing officer posted in Wadala.

Objecting to her ‘signature’ on them, Shiv Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe registered her complaint with chairman of the state council Shivajirao Deshmukh. Along with her, the notices had forged signatures of Ramdas Kadam, Parshuram Uparkar (both from Shiv Sena) and Kiran Pawaskar (NCP). The complaint prompted a discussion in the state council, where members expressed their concerns.

As both the subjects sought to be raised using the fabricated signatures were of controversial nature, the CID inquiry ordered by the state council chairman is certain to generate utmost curiosity till the submission of the investigation report. Nevertheless, it’s not the first time that the issue of forged signatures has come to light in the Vidhan Bhavan premises.

A few years ago, forged signatures made on behalf of BJP MLC Navnath Avhad in the attendance register of the state council too raised hackles. In actuality, the MLC was in coma and was admitted at a hospital in Pune. But, the forged signatures attempted to show that the somnolent MLC was attending the house. This was done to avoid his disqualification, as a person cannot continue as a member if he is absent for over a certain number of days from the House. Avhad was in coma for a few years and his salary and perks were also withdrawn from time to time.

After the startling revelation, the state council debated the issue at length and finally it was decided to send those signatures to experts for analysis and verification. The outcome is still awaited. Meanwhile, the Upper House approved a resolution to revoke Avhad’s membership. The mystery of the forged signature, however, remains under wraps.

Later, the Vidhan Bhavan started a biometric attendance system for its employees. But efforts to convince legislators for adopting the system proved futile.

Also, a few incidents of forgery at Mantralaya from time to time have rattled the state government. In one such instance, fabricated signature of the then School Education and Sports Minister Prof Vasant Purke was found on a file dealing with allocation of government grants to sports bodies. It is said that an official from the sports directorate was found guilty.

Discussing the issue of the complaint by MLC Neelam Gorhe, the state council chairman made a shocking revelation in front of the House, stating that 24 cases of phoney signatures came to light during the last session of the state legislature. Here, a point must be noted that no outsider is likely to indulge in such acts as the legislature enjoys immense powers and members can use their privileges to nail whoever want to challenge their authority.

If sources in the corridors of power are to be believed, many legislators rarely go through the proposals or questions they want to put up. This job is usually done by their personal assistants, who are paid from the state kitty, and the staffers of the offices of political parties in Vidhan Bhavan.

Consequently, there have been cases when a member has fumbled while asking supplementary questions as he had little knowledge of the particular issue raised through the question.

Given the powers of the legislators and privileges offered to them, one cannot say or write derogatory things about them. But, it should not be forgotten that the functioning of the august Houses and its members is always under public gaze.

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY

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