The Bombay High Court today came down heavily on the Maharashtra government for not providing facilities to a retired judge appointed recently to inquire into alleged financial irregularities amounting to Rs 6,000 crore in tribal welfare schemes in the state.

"Why has the inquiry not begun? We want the government to provide all help to the concerned judge to hold the inquiry immediately," said a bench of justices V M Kanade and P D Kode while hearing a PIL filed by a tribal Bahiram Motiram from Nashik district.

On March 27, the court had ordered the inquiry by retired high court judge M G Gaikwad into the alleged financial irregularities in tribal welfare schemes during 2004-05 to 2008-09. Counsel for the petitioner, Rajendra Raghuvanshi alleged that the state officials were not cooperating in the probe ordered by the court. As a result, the inquiry had not yet begun. Even facilities have not been provided to the judge to hold the inquiry.

The bench expressed its anguish over the government's "lethargic attitude" and said "It is a big scam. We are very much concerned about the welfare of tribals. People should get benefits of the various schemes introduced by the government."

"Tell your (government) officers not to influence us either directly or indirectly... or else we will take strict action," the bench told government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani. Adjourning the hearing by four weeks, the court asked the government to inform on the next date how it would utilise the money allocated in the budget for tribal welfare schemes in this financial year.

The court had earlier appointed Retd Judge Gaikwad as Chairman of a five-member committee to probe the allegations. It had ordered that the inquiry shall commence immediately after the government regulation is notified on April 1. The bench had asked the judge to make recommendations for action to be taken against persons responsible for the scam.

In legal and political circles, the court order was considered as a heavy blow to Vijaykumar Gavit, the then minister for Tribal Welfare. The court observed today that though the GR was issued on April 1, the inquiry had not yet begun