According to officials, a NOC was granted by the accused officials of ASI and NMA to Riddhi Siddhi Enterprises for illegal construction allegedly in exchange for monetary favours.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked officials of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the National Monuments Authority (NMA) in Vadodara for alleged irregularities pertaining to the grant of No Objection Certificate (NOC) to private persons for the construction of buildings around centrally protected monuments in Ahmedabad.

According to the CBI Gandhinagar officials, a case of fraud was slapped on Shivananda V Rao, then superintending archaeologist, ASI (Ministry of Culture), Vadodara circle; Ravi Kumar Gautam, then administrative officer, NMA; Arifali Agariya, senior conservation assistant, ASI, Vadodara circle; Rajesh Johri, conservation assistant, ASI Vadodara circle; Ramesh Parmar, a partner of M/S Riddhi Siddhi Enterprises in Ahmedabad, and other unknown private persons and public officials. All the accused have been booked under IPC sections 420 for fraud, 468 for forgery of valuable security, 471 for using a forged document as genuine and 468 for forgery for the purpose of cheating.

A preliminary enquiry was launched after a complaint was made by the Ministry of Culture in 2020 regarding the construction of buildings by Riddhi Siddhi Enterprises in the regulated/prohibited area of Kuki Biwiki Masjid and Muqbara Tomb in Ahmedabad–both national monuments.

According to officials, a NOC was granted by the accused officials of ASI and NMA to Riddhi Siddhi Enterprises for illegal construction allegedly in exchange for monetary favours.

“It was alleged that the accused officials, in conspiracy with unknown officials of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, ASI, NMA and other unknown private persons had committed irregularities while granting NOCs/extension for construction/reconstruction in the prohibited/regulated area of centrally protected monuments and violated the rules & regulations of Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Sites & Remains Act during the year 2006 to 2018. It was further alleged that the officials of ASI granted NOC to a private company for constructions in the regulated/prohibited areas, classified as national monuments,” read a statement released by the CBI.

The statement further added that the private person arranged Rs 30 lakh (approx) through an angadiya (finance office) in New Delhi and handed it over to a public servant for issuance of revalidation letter signed by then member secretary, NMA, New Delhi for construction in his premises. The private person also allegedly paid a certain amount to another public servant for the issuance of a revalidation letter for the construction.

The CBI also conducted searches at various locations, including residential and office premises of the accused in Ahmedabad and Vadodara of Gujarat, Khajuraho of Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi and Gadag of Karnataka, according to officials.

“The searches led to the recovery of incriminating documents. A cash amount of Rs 26,75,000/- (approx) from the premises of the private person and silver bricks weighing around 6.5 kgs from the premises of then NMA administrative officer were also recovered. The probe is going on,” the CBI stated.

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