Acting on orders from the Bombay High Court (HC) , the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has lodged a first information report (FIR) against senior BJP leader and former state revenue minister Eknath Khadse along with his wife Mandakini, son-in-law Girish Choudhary and others in connection with the allegations made by city based realtor Hemant Gawande who had accused Khadse of defrauding the public exchequer in a land deal case in the Bhosari MIDC area in Pune.
Gawande had filed a complaint application against Khadse and others at the Bundgarden police station on May 30, 2016. He also moved court seeking remedies against Khadse. On February 14, 2017, the senior inspector of police of Bundgarden police station filed an affidavit in a reply before HC stating that there is no prima facie material to make out a cognizable offence so as to register an FIR in this case. Meanwhile, judicial commissioner headed by retired HC Justice Dinkar Zoting was appointed by the state to conduct an inquiry into the land deal.
But, on March 8, Justice Ranjit More and Revati Mohite Dere of HC ordered ACB to initiate a probe in this matter. The HC asked the ACB to register an FIR and investigate it “independently and without reference to the inquiry conducted by the judicial commission of retired Justice Zoting. The ACB shall expeditiously complete the investigation and shall act in accordance with law. We also make it clear that the court has not expressed any opinion on merits of the matter at this stage. Investigation shall be monitored by the senior officer not below the rank of additional director general of police, ACB”.
Accordingly, the ACB lodged an offence against Khadse, his wife, son-in-law, one Ukani and other unknown persons under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 109 of the IPC at the Bundgarden police station on Monday.
Khadse, the seniormost BJP leader in the state, had resigned in 2016 after many activists joined Gawande’s cause. Based on documents retrieved from the government repositories Gawande had alleged Khadse misused his position as revenue minister to swing a deal in favour of his wife Mandakini and son-in-law Girish Chaudhary. The land in question measures three acre and is in the industrial zone of Bhosari in Pimpri-Chinchwad. In his allegations Gawande had stated that Khadse had purchased the land keeping both the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and the owner in dark. The deal, Gawande alleged, was done keeping in view the multiple crores compensation the new owner would be eligible for, as per the new land acquisition law.
Khadse had consistently denied the allegations but the clamour for his resignation had caught steam with Aam Aadmi Party joining the chorus for his alleged telephonic conversation with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
Reacting to the news of the FIR, Khadse expressed confidence that he will be given a clean chit by the ACB. “The police had thoroughly investigated the matter for 8 months and filed an affidavit in the High Court absolving me of all the allegations. However, the complainant had claimed the investigations was done before the FIR was registered,” he said. The present investigations, he said, will also find nothing wrong against him. “All the allegations made against me are false and thorough probe by all departments have proved it,” he said.
Gawande said that every angle in the land transaction is expected to be probed. “The anti- corruption bureau (ACB) is expected to investigate the alleged misuse of power by the former revenue minister Eknath Khadse,” he said. Gawande added that the investigation should look into the motive behind intentionally undervaluing the property and how a large amount of money in cash was paid. “I am hopeful the ACB will investigate the matter thoroughly,” he said.