Soon after the Bombay High Court set aside the prosecution sanction against him in Adarsh Housing Society scam on Friday, senior Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan said “truth has ultimately prevailed”.
Addressing a press conference in Mumbai, ANI quoted Chavan as saying: “The truth has ultimately prevailed, we always had full faith in the country’s judiciary.”
Chavan also alleged that the issue was politically used by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) around 2014 to “malign” the image of the Congress.
Earlier in the day, the Bombay High Court ruled that the order passed by the Maharashtra Governor granting sanction to the CBI to prosecute Chavan in the scam cannot be sustained. A bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Sadhana Jadhav quashed the Governor’s prosecution order.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Chavan challenging Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao’s decision granting sanction to the CBI to prosecute him in the Adarsh Housing Society scam. The bench had made Rao a respondent in the matter.
In the order, the court, however, held that ” it was permissible for the Governor, the sanctioning authority, to review or reconsider the earlier decision of the erstwhile Governor not to grant sanction to prosecute the petitioner (Ashok Chavan) in terms of the fresh material which had surfaced after the earlier sanction was refused”.
In February last year, Governor Rao had granted sanction to the CBI to prosecute Chavan for offences of criminal conspiracy and cheating under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, and under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, in December 2013, Rao’s predecessor Governor K Sankaranarayanan had restrained CBI from initiating proceedings against Chavan.
“The material which is required to be considered by the sanctioning authority is not limited to the evidence collected by the investigating agency during the course of investigation,” said Justice Ranjit More. The court, however, held that such material must be admissible and capable of being converted to evidence which can be substantiated at the trial stage.
In an earlier affidavit filed by the investigating agency, it had said that it had approached the Governor for the second time seeking sanction as there was additional and fresh material against Chavan.
The CBI has relied on the report submitted by a two-member judicial commission set up by the government to inquire into the Adarsh scam and an earlier order of the court.
“Neither the extract of Justice J A Patil Commission report nor the order passed by the Single Judge of the court are admissible as evidence and, therefore, it cannot be considered. In the absence of fresh material, the Governor has no jurisdiction to review the order of the erstwhile Governor,” said the court.
The court, meanwhile, added that the challenge by the petitioner to the order of the Governor can be entertained at pre-trial stage since the same passed without there being fresh material.
Appearing for the CBI, Hiten Venegaonkar had earlier told the high court that the validity of the Governor’s February 2016 order granting sanction to prosecute former CM Ashok Chavan in the case can only be tested in the trial court.
Appearing for Chavan, senior counsel Amit Desai had argued that the 2016 order was motivated by change in political circumstances and not by any change in material aspects of the case.