Former BJP minister Eknath Khadse, who joined the NCP in October last year, was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for about nine hours on Thursday in connection with a 2016 Pune land deal case. On Wednesday, ED had arrested Khadse’s son-in-law Girish Chaudhri in connection with the case.
The agency has alleged that Chaudhri and Khadse bought land from the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) at Bhosari in Pune for Rs 3.75 crore when its actual value was almost Rs 40 crore. According to ED, the land was purchased in Chaudhri’s name and the money for the deal was allegedly routed through five shell companies.
Last October, the ED had filed an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) against Khadse, his wife Mandakini, Chaudhri and Abbas Ukani in the case. Ukani is the original owner of the land. Khadse was earlier given a clean chit by the Pune police and the Maharashtra ACB in this land deal case.
Activist Anjali Damania had challenged the ACB’s report submitted before a court in Pune, which had claimed that there was no evidence against Khadse. The matter is still pending before a Pune court. Earlier this year, the ED had collected documents pertaining to the land deal case from Damania’s lawyer Asim Sarode.
Pune realtor’s police complaint
The matter came to the fore when a Pune-based realtor, Hemant Gawande, filed a complaint application against Khadse and others, pertaining to the Bhosari MIDC land deal, at the Bundgarden police station on May 30, 2016. Gawande alleged that Khadse, who was then a BJP leader and state revenue minister, misused his power to purchase about three acres of MIDC land in Bhosari in the name of his wife and son-in-law at Rs 3.75 crore, as against the market price of Rs 40 crore. Gawande had also accused Khadse of defrauding the public exchequer in this land deal case.
Khadse had then said that Gawande was an aggrieved person who just wanted to escape the charges levied by the revenue department against him six to eight months ago, for allegedly showing bogus papers to usurp land worth Rs 400 crore.
In June 2016, following the corruption allegations, Khadse had resigned as a minister. On June 23, the then BJP-led state government had appointed a judicial commission headed by retired HC Justice Dinkar Zoting to conduct an inquiry into the land deal.
Gawande filed a petition before the Bombay High Court seeking dismissal of the judicial commission and lodging of a FIR against Khadse. On February 14, 2017, Bundgarden police station filed an affidavit in a reply before the HC, stating that there is no prima facie material to make out a cognizable offence so as to register an FIR in this case.
ACB probe ordered
But on March 8, 2017, Justice Ranjit More and Revati Mohite Dere of the Bombay HC ordered a probe by the Maharashtra ACB in this matter. Accordingly, the ACB lodged an offence against Khadse, his wife, son-in-law, Abbas Ukani and other unknown persons under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC section 109. Giving a clean chit to Khadse, the ACB submitted a report in the special court in April 2018, stating that the land deal was not illegal.
Clean chit challenged
In May 2018, activist Anjali Damania filed an appeal in a court in Pune against the ACB report. Damania’s lawyer Asim Sarode said ED officials contacted him in December 2020 seeking documents regarding the Bhosari MIDC land deal case. “I have given the documents to ED,” Sarode told The Indian Express.
The ED had issued a notice to Khadse over the land deal case in December 2020. Khadse then appeared before the ED on January 15 this year, when he was questioned for over six hours in connection with the case. Later, Khadse had moved a criminal writ petition before the Bombay HC, seeking quashing of the ECIR and interim protection from coercive action pending hearing of his plea.