In a setback to former chief minister Ashok Chavan, the Central Bureau of Investigation Wednesday said it had accepted the earlier decision of the trial court and the Bombay High Court that its move to withdraw the name of former chief minister Ashok Chavan as an accused in the Adarsh housing society scam was “bad in law and not maintainable”.
A division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice S S Jadhav was hearing a petition filed by Chavan challenging a decision of Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidya-sagar Rao granting sanction to the CBI to prosecute him in the case. He had made Rao a respondent in the matter.
In February last year, Governor Rao had granted sanction to the CBI to prosecute Chavan for offences of criminal conspiracy and cheating under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, and under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, in December 2013, Rao’s predecessor, governor K Sankaranarayanan, had refused a sanction to the CBI to initiate proceedings against Chavan.
When the sanction was refused, the CBI had made an application before the trial court seeking to withdraw Chavan’s name from the list of accused. The trial court had then said this decision of the investigating agency was bad in law and not maintainable. The high court had also concurred with the trial court’s view.
On Wednesday, Justice Jadhav asked CBI counsel Hiten Venegaonkar to explain this stand of seeking permission to drop Chavan’s name.
Venegaonkar pointed out that after the sanction was refused by the then governor, there was no ground to prosecute Chavan under the IPC and they had therefore approached the court seeking to drop his name from the list of accused. “We had informed the Supreme Court also thereafter that we accepted the decision of the trial court and the high court of this move being bad in law,” he said.
The CBI had earlier told the high court that validity of Governor Rao’s February 2016 order granting sanction to prosecute the former chief minister in the Adarsh scam could only be tested in the trial court.
In an earlier affidavit, the investigating agency had said it had approached the Governor for the second time seeking sanction as there was additional and fresh material against Chavan.
The CBI has relied on the report submitted by a two-member judicial commission set up by the government to inquire into the Adarsh scam. Appearing for Chavan, senior counsel Amit Desai had argued that the 2016 order was motivated by change in political circumstances and not by any change in material aspects of the case.