The CBI today charged former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan and 12 others for a slew of alleged crimes in the Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society scandal,including criminal conspiracy,cheating,forgery,showing forged documents as genuine and corruption.
The CBI chargesheet came 17 months after it began probing the case in which politicians,bureaucrats and former defence officials are accused of building the 31-storey apartment complex on a disputed plot in a plush South Mumbai area in violation of state and Central laws. The accused or their relatives own apartments in the Cuffe Parade complex,many of them reportedly secured as a quid pro quo for allowing the building.
Chavan,who had to resign as chief minister in November 2010 after the scandal became public,is accused of granting some approvals to Adarsh in return for three flats to his close relatives,including his mother-in-law. Reacting to the chargesheet,Chavan said it was unfortunate and unexpected and accused his political rivals of trying to malign him by blowing the issue out of proportion.
The chargesheet filed in the Sessions Court,which runs into over 12,000 pages,includes 12 of the 14 names mentioned in the FIR registered in the case in January 2011. While the names of two military officers,Romesh Chandra Sharma and P K Rampal,have not been included,a new name,Col (Retd) R K Bakshi,has been added to the chargesheet. Bakshi had allegedly given a letter certifying that the land did not belong to the Army,CBI sources said.
Besides Chavan and Bakshi,the chargesheet names retired Army officers Brig M M Wanchoo,Maj Gen T K Kaul,Maj Gen A R Kumar,Col T K Sinha,suspended IAS officer Jairaj Phatak,former chief information commissioner Ramanand Tiwari,former Mumbai collector Pradeep Vyas,retired deputy principal secretary P V Deshmukh,former State Human Rights Commission member Subhash Lala,former state Congress spokesman K L Gidwani and retired defence estates officer R C Thakur.
The CBI said it had 160 important documents to back its charges. It said Thakur and Wanchoo conspired with defence officers and state government officials to illegally allot the land to Adarsh in which they were members. Maj Gen Kumar,it said,abused his position and fraudulently issued a purported no-objection certificate to the Mumbai collector for development of the plot.
The CBI has also alleged that Congressman Gidwani had joined the conspiracy,exercising his personal influence with public servants in the state government and offering them memberships for granting favours to the society. Nine of the 14 named in the FIR had been arrested and are now out on bail. None of the accused were present in court when the chargesheet was filed and chose to be represented by their lawyers.
The investigation with respect to benami transactions,and any other new facts that may emerge is still continuing,and a report under Section 173 of the CrPC will be filed after completion of investigation, the CBI said in a statement,indicating that it could file a supplementary chargesheet.
CBI sources said the statements of former chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde do not form part of the 150 witness statements incorporated in the chargesheet. The two,who are now in the Union Cabinet,are also alleged to have given approvals to Adarsh.
Investigations are still on. We have left the investigation open against a bunch of people,including Deshmukh and Shinde. A provision under CrPC allows us to continue with the investigations even after filing of the chargesheet. A clean chit has not been given to anyone at this point, said a CBI officer.
The trial against the 13 charged on Wednesday,however,cannot start immediately as two of them,Vyas and Phatak,are still in service and the Department of Personnel and Training needs to give its approval. The court cannot take cognizance until the sanctioning authority grants sanction. We have to explain each section and charges levelled against the two and seek permission. The court cannot proceed until procedural requirements are completed, said the CBI officer,adding that the agency has already approached the state government.