December 22, 2017 4:06:13 pm
A 31-storey apartment complex, called the Adash Housing Society, was built in Colaba in South Mumbai for 1999 Kargil war heroes and war widows. In 2010, it was revealed that politicians, the bureaucracy and military officials colluded to violate rules concerning land ownership and other norms to get flats allotted to themselves and their relatives.
In the building, which was originally meant to be a six-storey, several apartments, estimated to cost anywhere up to Rs 8 crore in 2010, were allegedly bought at a tenth of the price by defence personnel and relatives of bureaucrats and politicians — but mostly registered in the names of proxy owners.
Names of Congress chief minister Ashok Chavan, municipal commissioner Jairaj Phatak, collectors, the principal secretary of Urban Development Department, a plum portfolio held by the CM himself, cropped up.
The alleged scam has been probed by multiple agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Enforcement Directorate (ED), a team set up by the Maharashtra government and the Army.
The CBI took over the investigation in the same year, and registered an FIR in 2011. There were 14 people charged, including the then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, for criminal conspiracy under IPC Section 120 (b) and various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The Congress, which was in power in the state, made Chavan resign from office in 2010 after the corruption charges came out in public domain.
In 2011, the Maharashtra government set up a two-member judicial team to probe the allegations. It was headed by Justice J A Patil. In 2013, the team revealed 25 illegal allotments in its findings, including 22 purchases made by proxy.
On July 4, 2012, the central agency filed its first chargesheet in the case before a special CBI court. During the course of investigation, it came to light that the society did not have environmental clearance. The Bombay High Court had ordered demolition of the apartments and sought initiation of criminal proceedings against politicians and bureaucrats for alleged misuse of powers, holding that the tower was illegally constructed. It had asked the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest to carry out the demolition at the expense of Adarsh Society.
Chavan’s prosecution in the case has been a point of contention in the case. In December 2013, Maharashtra Governor at the time, K Sankaranarayanan, refused to grant permission to prosecute Chavan. However, a Sessions court later refused to omit his name as an accused in the case. The court’s order was backed by the Bombay HC in 2015.
In 2016, Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao granted the CBI permission to prosecute Chavan. Chavan, however, moved the Bombay HC challenging this order.
On Friday, the Bombay HC ruled against Chavan being prosecuted in the case, overturning the Governor’s decision. While it dismissed the Governor’s order, a bench comprising Justice Ranjit More and Justice Sadhana Jadhav held that it was “permissible” for Governor Rao to review or reconsider his predecessor’s order.
The CBI has accused Chavan of approving additional floor space index (FSI) for the Adarsh society, and accepting two flats for his relatives in return when he was CM. He is also accused of illegally approving, as revenue minister earlier, allotment of 40 per cent of flats to civilians.
(With inputs from PTI)
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