The Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday filed a charge sheet against 13 accused persons in the Adarsh Housing Society case, including the former Maharashtra Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan, who had to step down from office after the scam came to light; the former MLC, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani; senior retired Army officials and bureaucrats and a former employee of the Defence Ministry.
Senior bureaucrats Jairaj Phatak and Pradeep Vyas have also been chargesheeted, but the CBI is awaiting the Central and State governments’ approval for their prosecution, as they are serving IAS officers who have been put under suspension.
(The Adarsh scam dates back to February 2000. Though the housing complex was meant for serving and retired defence personnel, top politicians, bureaucrats and military officers committed acts of omission and commission and had flats allotted to themselves in this premier property at artificially lowered prices.)
The CBI filed a First Information Report last year against 14 persons. On Wednesday, it chargesheeted 12 of them. It excluded the names of Brigadier (Retd.) P.K. Rampal and Brigadier (Retd.) R.C. Sharma for lack of incriminating evidence, and added the name of Colonel (Retd.) R.K. Bakshi.
The charge sheet runs into nearly 2,000 pages. “There are 150 documents. Each consists of 100-150 pages,” an official source said. CBI officials brought over three trunks full of documents to the Sessions Court.
The charge sheet comprises statements of 150 witnesses. “The statements of around 10 important witnesses have been recorded under Section 164 (of the Criminal Procedure Code),” an official said.
The accused were booked for cheating, criminal conspiracy and misconduct by government servants. Sections 13(1)(d), 120B and 420 of the IPC have been invoked against them.
The former Chief Ministers, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde, were given a clean chit, official sources told The Hindu.
Mr. Chavan alleged that the charge sheet was a ploy to defame him, since he is the only former Chief Minister to be chargesheeted by the CBI for the inclusion of civilians in the society allegedly meant for the serving and retired defence personnel, for granting additional Floor Space Index to the society in lieu of three flats to his relatives including one for his mother-in-law.
Supplementary charge sheet
The Central Bureau of Investigation’s charge sheet in the Adarsh Housing Society scam case does not include investigation of benami property, and the agency is expected to file a supplementary charge sheet by the second week of December, giving details of such transactions, official sources said.
As of now, the agency suspects that there are 24 benami flats in the society allegedly owned by the former MLC, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani; T.K. Kaul; and Ramanand Tiwari among others, CBI officials said.
Besides the former Chief Minister, Ashok Shankarrao Chavan, the chargesheeted persons are R.C. Thakur, Brigadier (retd.) M.M. Wanchu, K.L. Gidwani, Major General (retd.) A.R. Kumar, Maj. Gen. (retd.) T.K. Kaul, Brig. (retd.) T.K. Sinha; retired IAS officers P.V. Deshmukh, Ramanand Tiwari and Subhash Lalla; serving IAS officers Pradeep Vyas and Jairaj Phathak; and Col (retd.) R.K. Bakshi.
Mr. Gidwani and Mr. Thakur have been cited as the main accused, a CBI official said. Mr. Thakur, who worked in the Defence Estate Office of the Ministry of Defence, is the secretary of the society, and is accused of having entered into a conspiracy with Mr. Wanchoo to get the land allotted for the society.
“M Guruswamy was the Defence Estate Officer then. Even he played a role in the conspiracy. But since he passed away before the FIR was registered, we have mentioned his name in column two of the charge sheet,” a senior official told The Hindu.
P.K. Bakshi, whose name has been added to the charge sheet, has been accused of giving a false letter, stating that the land did not belong to the Army. Major General (retd.) A.R. Kumar has been accused of quid pro quo for granting a no-objection certificate from the Army for the land allotment.
“The gist of the charge sheet is that Thakur and Wanchoo entered into a conspiracy. They roped in Gidwani to use his influence to negotiate with State government officials for the land allotment,” an official said.
Major General (retd.) T.K. Kaul is accused of having misrepresented before Parliament that the Adarsh land was never occupied by the Army.
P.V. Deshmukh, who was the then Deputy Secretary of the Urban Development Department, along with the other accused, wrongly conveyed to City Corporation officials that the Ministry of Environment and Forests had issued an NOC to the society.
The files were cleared during the tenure of Subhash Lalla in the Urban Development Department. He is accused of quid pro quo for playing an important role in granting concessions to the society. His son owns a flat in the society.