Making its first arrests in the Adarsh Housing Society scam within days of having been rapped by the Bombay High Court for shoddy investigation, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday arrested three persons, including a former top bureaucrat and two former army personnel.
The former sub-divisional officer (SDO) of the Mumbai Defence Estate Office, R.C. Thakur, Brigadier (retired) Madan Mohan Wanchu and the then Deputy Secretary of the Urban Development Department, P.V. Deshmukh, were arrested by the CBI on Tuesday.
CBI officials said they had not yet decided if they would be making the fourth arrest soon. Asked if Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, who was granted bail by the local court on Tuesday in an Adarsh-related bribery case, would be arrested soon, a highly placed CBI official said on condition of anonymity: “We will take a call once he is out of jail.”
Mr. Gidwani, a former Congress member of the Legislative Council, has been named as one of the 14 accused in the Adarsh case. He is expected to be released from the Arthur Road prison by Wednesday, his lawyer told The Hindu.
Of the three accused arrested on Tuesday, Mr. Deshmukh was picked up from his Pune residence at 7 a.m. in the morning and brought to Mumbai for questioning.
Mr. Thakur and Mr. Wanchu — respectively the secretary and the president of the controversial Adarsh society — were being interrogated since Monday evening, sources close to the accused said.
All the three have been booked under Sections 120(B), 420, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections 13(2) read with 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The sections pertain to criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery for the purpose of cheating and criminal misconduct by a public servant.
All of them were questioned for hours before being arrested. Even after the arrest, the agency said interrogations were going on. At 3 p.m., they were taken for medical examination. CBI officials said the trio would be produced in the court on Wednesday.
Mr. Thakur and Mr. Wanchu have been accused of conspiring with Defence service officials and State government officials “with the intention [of illegally getting] the land allotted in favour of Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society, in which they were the members.”
The CBI has alleged that “the concerned public servants abused their official position, manipulated and fabricated the records to achieve their objective of getting the land allotted in favour of Adarsh and got various clearances from the Municipal Authorities and other State government authorities in an illegal manner, abused their official position and obtained for themselves and for their close relations property rights over flats at a very low cost compared to the market value.”
While elaborating on the role played by Mr. Deshmukh, the investigating agency said when he worked as the Deputy Secretary of the Urban Development Department of the Government of Maharashtra, he entered into a conspiracy with the other accused and fraudulently communicated to the civic body that a No Objection Certificate (NOC) was granted for the project by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
“He fraudulently communicated to the Chief Engineer, Building Plan, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) that an NOC was granted by the MoEF, though no such NOC was ever issued by the Ministry and thereby he abused his official position for his personal gain by becoming a member in the society,” the CBI said.
While investigating the case, the CBI had also frozen the accounts of all the three accused, along with the bank accounts of four other accused. Over the past one year, the agency has also raided the houses and office premises of most of the accused and seized incriminating documents. The statements of most of the accused have been recorded by the investigating agency.
Among others named in the FIR are the former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan, the then MCGM Commissioner, Jairaj Phatak, the former Collector of Mumbai, Pradeep Vyas, the former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Subhash Lala, the then Principal Secretary of the Urban Development Department, Ramanand Tiwari.