Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
Mumbai: Nudged by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Maharashtra government on Thursday partially accepted the judicial panel report on the Adarsh Housing Society scam and announced action against indicted bureaucrats but gave a clean chit to politicians barring former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, saying "no criminality was revealed against them".
After the Cabinet reviewed its decision to reject the judicial commission`s report, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan told reporters, "In case of political patronage, the commission did not draw the conclusion that they indulged in a criminal act. In case of political patronage mentioned in Adarsh panel report, we found no criminality was revealed."
The reconsideration came a week after the Congress vice president`s public disapproval of the government`s decision to reject the findings of the two-member panel, which had indicted officials and politicians including four former chief ministers for "blatant violations" of statutory provisions.
The Cabinet had rejected the report before tabling it in the Legislative Assembly on December 20. Chavan had then said the decision to reject the findings had been taken "in public interest".
"Personally, I don`t agree with that decision. They (Maharashtra) should reconsider that," Rahul had said in Delhi a week ago at a press conference where Chavan was present. Chavan had later said he would consult his Cabinet before taking a decision.
Citing a Supreme Court order, Chavan made it clear that no separate FIRs would be filed by the state government against those figuring in the CBI FIR or the charge sheet.
The report said Adarsh society enjoyed political patronage of four former chief ministers - Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde, Ashok Chavan and Shivajirao Nilengekar Patil - and former Ministers for Urban Development Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope.
"Those persons found guilty of quid pro quo and those against whom an FIR and charge sheet has been filed... There, as per the Supreme Court ruling in the past, that in case of same crime two different FIRs need not be filed," Chavan said.
To a query on how Ashok Chavan can escape scrutiny as a clear case of quid pro quo has been established against him in the report, the chief minister said, "CBI has already filed an FIR and charge sheet."
Ashok Chavan is the only former chief minister who has been charge sheeted in the Adarsh case. However, Governor K Sankaranarayanan last month refused the mandatory sanction to CBI to prosecute him, leaving the agency with no choice but to close the case against him.
Ashok Chavan`s three relatives were allotted flats in the Adarsh building during his tenure as chief minister. He handled the Adarsh file as Revenue Minister in 2002 and later allegedly asked the housing society to take 40 per cent members from civilian category, when it was originally meant only for war veterans, the Commission had said.
"There was certainly a nexus between the acts of Chavan and benefits derived by his close relatives. The membership process clearly indicates that grant of requisite permission by Chavan was by way of quid pro quo," it said.
CBI had alleged in its charge sheet that Ashok Chavan had increased the floor space index of the controversial Adarsh society in return for flats for his relatives. He had also asked the housing society to take 40 per cent members from civilian category, when it was originally meant only for war veterans, CBI had alleged, adding that Chavan played a key role in the scam.
Chavan`s mother-in-law Bhagvati Sharma, sister-in-law Seema Sharma and father-in-law`s brother Madanlal Sharma have flats in the society. All of them have been held ineligible by the judicial panel to own flats.
CBI had charged Chavan and 12 others for criminal conspiracy, cheating and criminal misconduct under Indian Penal Code and also under Prevention of Corruption Act.
Prithviraj Chavan said 12 officials named in the report will face departmental inquiry for violating the service conduct rules.
The Cabinet has also decided to initiate proceedings against 22 benami transactions, he said, adding the commission had recommended action against allottees of such flats as they were found to be in violation of the Benami Transactions Prohibition Act.
"The CBI is at present looking into the 22 benami flats that were mentioned in the action taken report and how these flats were acquired. The CBI is also enquiring if this case has an element of quid pro pro in it," the Chief Minister said.
About two NCP politicians Tope and Tatkare, Chavan said, "It was found that these two (then ministers of state) had not even seen any (related) file."
The government, he said, has also decided to initiate action against 25 flat owners who have been found ineligible including diplomat Devyani Khobragade. The diplomat is at the centre of a row between India and the US after her arrest and ill treatment on charges of visa fraud.
Those found ineligible for ownership of flats also include former Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Babasaheb Kupekar of NCP, former Shiv Sena MP Suresh Prabhu and three relatives of former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who had to step down after the scam surfaced.
"The action taken report had also looked into whether the necessary permissions were taken. The action taken report suggested that necessary permissions from the central environment ministry were not taken.
"The action taken report said that this was an unauthorised and irregular structure and should be demolished. The report suggested that the manner in which the land was acquired and the building was built was completely irregular and unauthorised," the chief minister said.
The judicial panel has already held that the land on which the 32-storey building stands belongs to Maharashtra government and that it was not reserved for Kargil widows or war heroes. That part of the report has been accepted by the government.
The Commission headed by retired high court judge J A Patil had severely indicted those in authority, describing the scam as a "bad precedent" which reflected "greed, nepotism and favouritism" by people associated with it.
"Evidence clearly indicates that it is neither ideal (Adarsh) nor role model but a bad precedent. Adarsh is a saga of ideal co-operation but it is a shameless tale of blatant violations of statutory provisions, rule and regulations," the report said.
It expressed "deep regret" over the "greed, nepotism and favouritism" involved in the scam.
"It reflects greed, nepotism and favouritism on part of people who were in one way or the other associated with Adarsh. It is sad story of unscrupulous greed of some persons closely connected with the society.
"Some persons not satisfied with the allotment of one single flat have tried and succeeded in securing flats for their nears and dear ones. They went to the extent of benami transactions in violation of provisions. That such an episode should take place in Maharashtra is a matter of deep regret," it had said.
Meanwhile, Opposition BJP and Shiv Sena, besides the Aam Aadmi Party have criticised the government for partial acceptance of the Judicial Commission`s report.
"It is absolute sham, we reject the government`s action totally and will move the high court against the decision. There is criminal liability and the government should prosecute each one of those indicted by the Judicial Commission," state BJP president Devendra Fadnavis said.
"It is extremely unfortunate. Why is the government hesitant to prosecute the guilty. From the conduct of the government it is clear that it has no resolve to act against corruption," Shiv Sena leader Rahul Narvekar said.
Anjali Damania of AAP described the government`s move as "a cruel joke played on the people of the country".
"After Rahul Gandhi made a brouhaha they (government) accepted the report partially. After Congress Vice President spoke about it, Prithviraj Chavan was compelled to show that something was being done," she said. However, Congress` ally and coalition partner in the government NCP welcomed the decision, saying it was right.
"Only one politician Ashok Chavan got some benefit (from the scam) and no other politician did. The officials were beneficiaries and not politicians," he said.
With PTI inputs