On Monday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had put up a spirited defence of his ministers on July 22, himself became the Opposition’s target with the Congress accusing him of “misusing his position to shield his ministers”.
Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil released official documents indicating that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the police was on its way to arrest newly inducted Cabinet minister Jaikumar Rawal and another BJP MLA Vijay Kumar Gavit in an alleged multi-crore loan fraud when Fadnavis, who holds the Home portfolio, transferred the case away from the SIT to the Crime Investigation Department.
According to the official documents, Pradip Padvi, police inspector, Dondaicha police station, who was heading the SIT, had on August 21, 2015, written to the office of the Dhule Superintendent of Police disclosing the plan to arrest Rawal, Gavit and 54 others accused in the case on August 23. The Indian Express has a copy of the letter.
The case pertains to alleged fraudulent disbursal of loans totaling Rs 16 crore by the Rawal family-controlled Dadasaheb Rawal Cooperative Bank in Dhule’s Dondaicha. Rawal himself is a bank director. The criminal case in the matter was lodged at the Dondaicha police station on January 1, 2010, when the Congress-NCP was in power in Maharashtra.
Another official document released by the Congress leader reveals that on August 24, 2015, Fadnavis transferred the case to the CID after his office received a written complaint from six out of the remaining 54 accused questioning the “fairness” of the SIT probe. Alleging that former Home Minister (late) RR Patil had constituted the SIT based on a politically motivated demand from a local Congress and a local NCP leader who wanted to target Rawal, the six accused alleged that the investigations in the case had been one-sided. The accused demanded that the case be transferred to the CID. Documents available with The Indian Express show that the chief minister had ordered on the file that the case be “immediately transferred to the CID”.
On July 22, Fadnavis, while defending Rawal, had maintained that the case against him was politically motivated. He had also said that an application for transferring the case to the CID was first made in 2013 when the Congress-NCP was at the helm.
But on Monday, the LoP released a document which showed that the then Special Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Deven Bharti, who is presently a Joint Commissioner of Police, had on October 23, 2013, rejected the demand for transferring the case to the CID claiming that “since all the offenders and records in the case were there in Dondaicha to see, there was no need to transfer the matter to the CID”.
Rawal was inducted in the Fadnavis cabinet on July 8. The Opposition has been targeting him on grounds that he faces serious charges in the case. The police FIR has charged the accused in the case for dishonest misappropriation of property, criminal conspiracy, fraudulent cancellation or destruction of a valued security, cheating, and breach of the trust, among other offences.
Targeting Fadnavis, Vikhe-Patil said, “This is the first time when we have come across a matter where the Home department has transferred a case to another investigation agency following a demand made by those accused in the case.”
Later in the day, Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant shared another document showing that on September 18, 2015, Rawal himself held a meeting in the regard with the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) and Principal Secretary (Special) regarding corrections to be made in the order for transferring the case to the CID. The order supposedly hadn’t mentioned the case registration number. “The CM has launched a one-window scheme to protect his tainted ministers and issuing clean chits. In this government there is a new amnesty scheme where serious crimes committed by ministers are forgiven,” said Vikhe-Patil.
The CMO, however, said that the case had been transferred since there were some serious complaints against SIT constituents. “The CM opted to transfer the case to an independent agency like CID for a fair probe,” said a CMO official.
The LoP also hit out at Fadnavis for defending another minister Sambhaji Patil Nilengekar. “He has been chargesheeted by the CBI for a loan fraud and charges against him include willful destruction of evidence and falsification of records,” said Vikhe-Patil.
The CM had earlier said the case against Nilengekar, who was also newly inducted on July 8, were the result of a family feud. Vikhe-Patil, however, accused Fadnavis of “misleading” the state legislature, and has indicated that the Congress would approach the court for pursuing the matter against the two ministers. The tainted ministers’ controversy also reverberated during proceedings of the legislature with the Opposition accusing the government of muzzling voices of dissent.