THE Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) would probe the Pune land deal case in which former minister and BJP leader Eknath Khadse is alleged to have misused his position. The government also said that the ACB would register an FIR against Khadse over allegations of corruption. The court has now directed the ACB to carry out the probe independently under the supervision of its Additional Director General. It has also asked for the FIR to be filed without delay.
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The order by the division bench of Justices R V More and Revati Mohite Dere came a day after the Bund Garden police in Pune refused to file a case against Khadse based on the complaint of Pune based realtor Hemant Gawande, who is the petitioner in the case. In a letter written to Gawande, senior inspector of Bund Garden police station Madan Bahaddarpure had said, “In the inquiry conducted into the complaint application filed by you against Mandakini Khadse, Eknath Khadse and Girish Chaudhary, we have not found any grounds of registering a cognizable offence.” Gawande, who has been seeking a CBI probe in the case, has alleged that Khadse misused his position as Revenue Minister and purchased a 3-acre plot in Bhosri near Pune in the name of his kin for Rs 3.75 crore when the market price was Rs 40 crore.
After petitioner’s counsel, Shrinivas Patwardhan, informed the court that Pune police have closed the case, state counsel Niteen Pradhan said that the case would be transferred to the ACB. The court has now directed Pune police to withdraw its closure of the case, and transfer the case to the ACB within a week. “The probe should be conducted expeditiously and independently. The investigations should not be influenced by the findings of the Pune police. The agency should not be influenced by the findings of the judicial commission either,” said Justice More. Pradhan initially objected to registering an FIR immediately by the agency stating the agency’s probe will be an honest one and that an FIR can be registered after the completion of prima facie probe. The court, however, directed the agency to register FIR immediately after taking over the probe. The HC will also monitor the progress of the case, which has been posted for next hearing on April 3.
A senior officer from Pune branch of the state ACB said, “We have not yet received any communication from the state department. But if we are entrusted to carry out the probe, we will begin with filing an FIR under Prevention of Corruption Act. The decision to entrust the probe to a particular ACB branch will be taken at the level of Home Ministry. The investigation of this gravity will be done under supervision of the senior officer.” Speaking over the development, Khadse said police’s affidavit in the court had exonerated him. “They took six months and checked every document possible. As they did not find any illegality they filed the affidavit,” said Khadse. He refused to comment over the court’s directive to hand over the case to the ACB. Gawande, meanwhile, said: “I have full faith in the judiciary.”