Maharashtra

Ashok Chavan and the Adarsh saga

Print edition : February 07, 2014

Ashok Chavan. Photo: V. Sudershan

THE move by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to drop former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s name from the list of accused in the Adarsh Society scam has led to allegations that the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party ruling combine in the State was intent on ensuring that none of its leaders gets dragged into the scam. Using the technicality of the State Governor’s refusal to sanction Chavan’s prosecution, the CBI moved a special court seeking approval to remove his name from the list of the 13 persons charge-sheeted in the case for criminal conspiracy, cheating and criminal misconduct. The Governor’s decision, it said, was “non-appealable”.

The CBI had charged that Chavan was part of the conspiracy to include civilians in the society that was originally meant for Kargil war widows and defence personnel; he had also allegedly granted an additional 40 per cent floor space index to the society in exchanger for a few flats for his relatives.

A CBI official said an application filed by them and the order passed by Governor K. Sankaranarayanan refusing sanction to prosecute Chavan were submitted to the court by Special Public Prosecutor Bharat Badami in January. Badami told the court that since the Governor had declined to give sanction to prosecute Chavan, there was no option but to drop his name from the list of accused. “There is no scope to file a review petition before the Governor,” he told mediapersons.

When the Justice J.A. Patil Commission’s report on the scam was tabled in the Assembly in December on the opposition’s insistence, the ruling coalition rejected it. However, it is going to be tricky for the present administration to explain the rejection.

Chavan’s case more than that of the others has been awkward for the government. Not only was Chavan instrumental in the allotment of flats, but he managed to secure two flats in the building for two of his relatives: his mother-in-law and his father-in-law’s brother. Adarsh is located on prime property in south Mumbai.

In a letter to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, the former Chief Minister wrote: “The report is bad and great injustice has been done to me. Before indicting me, the commission did not hear my contention. This, despite it being specifically brought to its notice that if it was passing strictures against me, then as per the Commissions of Inquiry Act, I should be heard.”

Two other former Chief Ministers from the Congress—the late Vilasrao Deshmukh and present Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde—have been indicted in the Adarsh scam. In Mumbai recently, Shinde defended his role in Adarsh and told mediapersons that recommendations for flats made by him were on the merit that the land belonged to the State government and there was no reservation in the high-rise for heroes of the Kargil conflict. “There is nothing wrong in Adarsh society [allotments]. You will have to go into the details of the report [of the judicial panel]. The fact is that the land belonged to Maharashtra government and there was no reservation for Kargil heroes.”

Whatever the land ownership issues are, the Congress will have to explain the curious case of bureaucrats and politicians grabbing flats in a premium building at less-than-market rates. Dropping Chavan’s name is a blatant move which may not go down well with the electorate, especially when general elections are round the corner.

Anupama Katakam

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