The Bombay High Court on Tuesday refused to quash a First Information Report (FIR) lodged by state Anti-Corruption Bureau against Deodutta Marathe, the former secretary of Public Works Department, in connection with alleged fraud in implementation of slum rehabilitation scheme on Regional Transport Office ( RTO) plot in Andheri.
A division bench of Chief Justice Bhushan P Dharmadhikari and Justice Nitin R Borkar passed a ruling in a plea filed by Marathe, who sought to quash a case lodged against him by the ACB in June 2015, for offences of cheating, criminal breach of trust among others under Indian Penal Code and criminal misconduct by a public servant under Prevention of Corruption Act.
The ACB had in June 2015 registered the FIR against Marathe and former PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal (NCP), his son Pankaj, nephew Sameer and 15 others, including government officials. It was alleged that the accused had caused a loss to the public exchequer and committed fraud by entering into a conspiracy with a private contractor for the development of a plot of Regional Transport Office (RTO) at suburban Andheri to a private company Chamankar Enterprises.
Special Public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat, for ACB, argued that the private company sought no objection certificate from RTO seeking to use some portion of said land for slum redevelopment, which was rejected in 2001. The RTO had then objected to it and said there would be a shortage of space for its own office if its land was used for slum redevelopment.
As per the prosecution, accused persons, including Marathe, fabricated records and twisted facts to accept the proposal submitted by Chamankar Enterprises. An FIR was registered on the complaint made by ACB, Mumbai.
Advocate Manoj Mohite, representing Marathe, submitted that all papers showed that their client had opposed the proposal and said that despite his opposition, the elected representatives, including former Deputy CM Bhujbal, proceeded. Mohite also claimed that proposal was finalised in August 2006, two months after his client had retired from service. Therefore, he claimed that Marathe cannot be blamed in the case and FIR against him needs to be quashed and set aside.
After examining submissions and material on record, Chief Justice Dharmadhikari observed, “The negligence as a civil wrong and dishonest intention are two different facets which may be attracted in the present case. When prima facie the violation of provisions of the law are seen, this distinction cannot be used to quash the prosecution.”
The bench further found merit in Gharat’s claim, who submitted that there is enough material on record for the trial to go on against Marathe and the case cannot be quashed by accepting unsubstantiated defence by the petitioner.
The court also observed that the 2002 policy for the development of government plots through private developers stipulated that builder like M/s Chamankar cannot have earned more than 20 per cent profit. It observed that after objections, the profit has been brought down to 14. 47 per cent, however, if additional Floor Space Index (FSI) was used by the builder, the profit would exceed 20 per cent.
The bench said, “The cost of Maharashtra Sadan (the state government guest house in Delhi) been increased from Rs 45 crore to Rs 50 crore. Similarly, the cost of play track, parking, etc, to be constructed by the developer for RTO has also been added. We do not wish to comment more on this disputed aspect.” The court, however, kept contentions made by petitioner open to be contested before a trial court.
Dismissing the plea by Marathe, the bench noted, “Our observations above are only for the purpose of finding out whether a case for intervention is made out in extraordinary jurisdiction or not.”
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