The Bombay High Court Wednesday directed CBI to conduct further probe into the ‘benami’ flats in the scam-tainted Adarsh building even as the agency said it has already completed investigation and submitted its charge sheet two years back.
A division bench of Justices A S Oka and A A Sayed was hearing a public interest litigation by activist Pravin Wategaonkar alleging that senior bureaucrats and politicians held ‘benami’ (proxy) flats in the Adarsh residential building, which was a quid-pro-quo for clearing files related to the society in violation of several norms.
The high court had earlier refused to accept two reports submitted by the CBI giving out details on what their probe has revealed.
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“From the two reports submitted earlier (by the CBI) we find that there has been no application of mind by the investigating officer of CBI. It is suffice to say that we are not satisfied with the manner in which investigation has been carried out. We therefore deem it appropriate to direct CBI to carry out further probe on specific allegations levelled in the petition,” the court directed.
The bench directed the CBI to submit a fresh probe report on December 16. As per HC’s earlier direction, Joint Director CBI (Western Region) Amrit Prasad was present in the court today.
When the HC today asked the senior officer if CBI was willing to carry out further probe considering the fact that the court was not satisfied with the earlier reports, Prasad said CBI has already completed its investigation into the benami flats and transactions, and submitted its charge sheet before the CBI court in July 2014.
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Prasad, however, said if the high court feels further probe is required, the agency can be directed to do so.
The court today further observed that another bench of the high court had in April this year, while directing demolition of the 31-storey Adarsh building in south Mumbai, said that the Union and state government shall consider initiating criminal or civil proceedings against ministers, bureaucrats and politicians for misuse of official positions.
“This finding of the court is enough for the CBI to carry out further probe. As an investigating agency it was the CBI’s duty to probe,” the court said.
Wategaonkar has sought disclosure of names of two top officers of the then Maharashtra government who had dealt with Adarsh files and allegedly obtained benami flats.
He claimed that when CBI arrested one of the promoters of Adarsh society, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani in 2011, it “claimed in the remand papers that they needed Gidwani’s custody because he held benami flats for political leaders”.
Gidwani, a Congress leader, and his family members owned a total of 10 flats in Adarsh. His sons owned three flats while in respect of other flats, the source of money and real ownership was not clear, the PIL has said.
It has alleged that two of these flats were meant for high-profile members of the then government who helped clear the Adarsh files, and two others for prominent politicians. Gidwani passed away in 2012.