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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Chhagan Bhujbal discharged in Maharashtra Sadan scam case along with son, nephew

A case was filed in 2015 against Bhujbal and 16 others by the ACB, alleging that a developer firm was favoured by him for a project on land owned by the Regional Transport Office. Bhujbal was the PWD minister from 2004 to 2014.

Written by Sadaf Modak | Mumbai |
Updated: September 10, 2021 8:10:44 am
NCP leader and Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Chhagan Bhujbal. (Express)

Maharashtra cabinet minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal was on Thursday discharged by a special court in the Maharashtra Sadan scam case being probed by the state Anti-Corruption Bureau.

Along with Bhujbal, his son Pankaj, nephew Sameer and five others were cleared of all charges by special judge H S Satbhai.

A case was filed in 2015 against Bhujbal and 16 others by the ACB after a Public Interest Litigation was filed in the Bombay High Court seeking an inquiry into alleged irregularities in awarding of contracts of over Rs 100 crore for three projects in 2006 when Bhujbal was the state PWD minister. The contracts in question were given to Chamankar Developers for the construction of Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi, a new Regional Transport Office building in Andheri and a state guest house in Malabar Hill. A separate case alleging money-laundering was also filed by the Enforcement Directorate.

The agencies claimed that the contracts were given to the firm without following proper rules in return for kickbacks to firms and trusts controlled by the Bhujbal family.

Bhujbal in his discharge plea filed earlier this year through lawyers Sajal Yadav and Sudarshan Khawase had submitted that there was no evidence of any irregularities or corruption by him as the then deputy chief minister and PWD minister.

On Wednesday, Pankaj and Sameer were discharged from another case of cheating in connection with a development project in Raigad in 2015.

After his discharge from this case, Bhujbal continues to face criminal charges in a case connected to the construction of a library in Kalina and offences registered by the ED based on cases by the ACB. Discharge applications are pending hearing in the other cases as well.

In 2016, the ED had arrested Bhujbal for alleged money-laundering. He remained behind bars until 2018, when the Bombay High Court granted him bail.

The ACB chargesheet had alleged that Bhujbal, other public servants and the firms had caused wrongful losses to the government. It was claimed that a false status report with a false balance sheet was prepared with an inappropriate calculation for profit to the firm. It was alleged that while the prospective profit to the developer was shown to be only 1.33 per cent, it was actually over 365 per cent. Other irregularities in land use and construction were also alleged. The status report forms a crucial part of the case as while the ACB alleged that it shows losses were caused to the government, the accused maintained that the calculation shows that no losses were caused.

Bhujbal had maintained that the allegations of losses caused to the government were based on “wrong calculations”. He had also said that the decision to award the contract was taken by the Cabinet Infrastructure Committee in a meeting headed by the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, where many other ministers and senior bureaucrats were present, and it underwent scrutiny. It was submitted that he had no role in sanctioning of the developer as the firm was selected way back in 1998.

Last month, five others including those linked to the developer firm were also discharged by the special court. The court had then said that there were more than 100 communications on the issue of the proposed contract between various departments before a status report was prepared. It has said that it was done following proper procedure.

A detailed order is yet to be made available.

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