Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday sought to know if a special court can act as a magistrate and direct initiation of inquiry against a person under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
A division bench of Justices P V Hardas and A M Thipsay raised this query while hearing a petition filed by Additional Chief Secretary T C Benjamin seeking to quash an order passed by a special court directing the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate allegations against him and developer Niranjan Hiranandani in a real estate scam.
Benjamin, former Principal Secretary in the Urban Development Department, is accused of not taking action against Hiranandani who allegedly built luxury flats in suburban Powai in breach of a tripartite agreement between the builder, the state government and MMRDA.
A special ACB court had in July last year ordered for inquiry against Benjamin and Hiranandani. The inquiry order was passed under section 156 (3) of the CrPC on a complaint made by activist Santosh Daundkar.
The High Court today sought to know whether the section gives a special court the power to order inquiry.
"Section 156 (3) of CrPC empowers a magistrate to initiate inquiry. Does a special court also come under the definition of a magistrate ?" Justice Hardas asked.
The court has posted the matter for further hearing next week due to the absence of Daundkar`s lawyer.
Pursuant to the special court`s order the ACB had registered an FIR against Benjamin and Hiranandani on July 5 last year.
Daundkar`s complaint stated that in 1977, the state had announced the Powai Housing Development Scheme for economically weaker sections (EWS) that was to be implemented over 140 hectares in Powai, Kopri and Tirandaz. In 1986, the state signed an agreement with Hiranandani, and handed over 230 acres.
"However, the developer had flouted the tripartite agreement with the state and MMRDA which allowed him to develop 230 acres in Powai and construct affordable houses and hand over part to the state," Daundkar alleged.
Daundkar pointed out that an ACB inquiry in 2009 revealed that only 76,120 sq m of the 5.74 lakh sq m of the built-up area sanctioned by the government was used by Hiranandani for low-cost housing, while the rest was converted into luxury apartments of 2,000 to 5,000 sq ft each.