Home » Politics » CBI gets Governor's go ahead to prosecute Ashok Chavan. Cong cries foul

CBI gets Governor's go ahead to prosecute Ashok Chavan. Cong cries foul

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:35 IST

The decision

  • Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao has approved CBI\'s request to prosecute Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh scam
  • Rao\'s predecessor had turned down the CBI\'s request

More in the story

  • How serious are the charges against Chavan?
  • What was the scam all about?

Ashok Chavan is in trouble. Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao has approved the request of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to prosecute Chavan in the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam.

Chavan is a former chief minister of Maharashtra and a sitting Lok Sabha MP from the Congress party. If convicted, he will have to vacate his seat.

The approval, as expected, has evoked sharp reactions from Congress, calling it "political vendetta" and an effort by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to "eliminate the opposition".

Chavan is the second powerful leader in Maharashtra to recently face legal action for alleged financial irregularities, after Chhagan Bhujbal of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Also read: Adarsh Scam: CBI wants to prosecute ex-Chief Minister Ashok Chavan

The reactions

While, Congress is determined to support Chavan, BJP is firm on its stand that whatever has happened is within the legal framework.

CBI had earlier applied for approval to prosecute Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh scam to the then Governor K Sankaranarayanan.

However, the application was rejected. The investigation agency, again applied for approval to the present Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, who has allowed CBI to prosecute Chavan.

Defending the CBI action, Maharashtra's revenue minister Eknath Khadse said, "The scam happened during the tenure of the Congress-NCP. Since the investigating agency got clinching evidence against Chavan, it approached the Governor for approval to prosecute him. Legal action is being taken in the matter on the basis of the facts unearthed during the course of investigation."

Congress leader Bhai Jagtap, however, came down heavily on the BJP. "This is nothing but political vendetta. I fail to understand that how can an application rejected by previous Governor be accepted after the change of regime in the state and Centre?" he asked. "There is nothing against our leaders. The decision is completely politically motivated," he added.

BJP MP Kirit Somaiya has welcomed the decision. Somaiya had filed a review petition with the Governor when the application was rejected. "The inquiry conducted by Justice (Retd) Patil commission has brought out several clinching evidences against Ashok Chavan proving 'quid pro quo'. Despite the evidence being given to the previous Governor, the application to prosecute Chavan was rejected. Interestingly, the decision of the then Governor could not stand in the High Court as well as the Supreme Court," Somaiya said.

Justice (retd.) JA Patil, in his report, had mentioned that Chavan's close relatives got 4 flats in the plush building against the approvals he granted. "There is concrete evidence of 'quid pro quo' in the matter. The widening of the road near the plot was stalled, rules were changed to facilitate the construction of the building," Justice (Retd) Patil said.

Also read: From OROP to Adarsh scam: Do politicians care about armed forces?

Reacting to the decision, Chavan said, "There is nothing against me. This is the BJP's systematic effort to eliminate leaders of opposition parties. This is an effort to divert public attention from the burning issues such as malnutrition, drought and high prices. I will challenge this in the Court."

The scam

The Adarsh Housing Society is a plush 31-storey building in Colaba, South Mumbai. The building was proposed for the widows of army men, martyred in Kargil and other wars. However, over time, several politicians, bureaucrats and military officers were included as members and flats were allotted to them. When the scam was unearthed in 2010, Ashok Chavan, who was Chief Minister of Maharashtra at that time, had to resign from the post.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report released in 2011 mentioned the scam as a classical example of how officials in key positions connive to subvert rules and regulations to grab prime land, which is public property, for personal benefit.

The two member judicial panel comprising Justice (Retd) JA Patil and NN Kumbhar was appointed to investigate the allegations in 2011. After an inquiry for over 2 years, in which 182 witnesses were questioned, the commission submitted its final report in April 2013.

According to the report, 23 flats in the building were illegally allotted while 22 flats were purchased under bogus names. The report also named 4 former chief ministers of Maharashtra - Ashok Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar, two urban development ministers Rajesh Tope and Sunil Tatkare and 12 top bureaucrats including former MCGM chief Jairaj Phatak.

The CBI, Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate are currently investigating the matter.

The violations

Apart from gross violations of several environment protection rules, the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society is alleged to have violated several state and central government rules. Some of the major violations include: obtaining a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the ministry of defence to construct the building in a sensitive area, with many vital defence installations in the vicinity, modification of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority development rule and NOC for residential building in a Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) area.

Also read: Will things ever be the same again for Chhagan Bhujbal?

First published: 5 February 2016, 12:39 IST
Ashwin Aghor @CatchNews

Journalist based in Mumbai.