Bombay HC hands over Pune land scam probe to CBI

Coming down heavily on land grab in Pune, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday handed over the investigation into the scam to the CBI.

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday
transferred from the State CID to the CBI, probe into the Pune
land scam under the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act
(ULCA) and directed the agency to register FIRs against former
Urban Development minister and Mumbai BJP chief Raj Purohit
and other revenue officers of the department within six weeks.
"According to the report, submitted by the one-man
Committee appointed by the government, the minister (Purohit)
and several revenue officers of the Urban Development
department had abused their powers and passed brazenly
fraudulent orders," a division bench of Justices B H
Marlapalle and U D Salvi observed.

"The CBI shall take over the probe and shall take steps
to register FIR against all those revenue officers named in
the report as well as Purohit, then Minister of State for
Urban Development within six weeks," the bench directed.

The court was hearing a PIL filed by BJP spokesperson
Madhav Bhandari alleging that between 1976 and 2005, 11,894
returns (statements of property extracts and details of
persons having interest in the land) were filed in the ULCA in
the Pune urban agglomeration.

According to the PIL, bogus orders were passed under ULCA
to avoid surrendering excess land to the state government.

Purohit`s lawyer Niteen Pradhan said they would challenge
the order.

The 29 cases registered by the State CID, Pune between
December 2010 and January 2011 following court orders do not
name even one of the revenue officers as accused in the scam.

This is one of the reasons why the court feels that the case
should be handed over to an independent agency which is not
under the control of the state government, Justice Marlapalle

CBI has been directed to form a special investigation
team comprising of five officers headed by a Deputy
Superintendent rank officer and submit a progress report
within eight weeks.

"In most of the cases, orders were passed by the minister
and revenue officers without calling for records. All of them
were in a race to usurp land and pass fraudulent orders. This
is not only an extraordinary case but an unprecedented one in
the history of Maharashtra," Justice Marlapalle said.

The scam came to light in 2005 when the Deputy
Collector`s office in Pune received a forged and fabricated
certificate under the Act, declaring a plot in Wakad near Pune
as non-surplus.

The Court has also directed the state government to
extend logistical and infrastructural support including
manpower to CBI.
The FIR should also name land owners and developers, the
Court said.