Chavan cannot be prosecuted for criminal conspiracy or cheating

In a major relief for former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, State Governor K. Sankaranarayan has turned down the Central Bureau of Investigation’s request to prosecute him in the Adarsh scam.

CBI sources told The Hindu that the CBI wanted to prosecute Mr. Chavan on charges of criminal conspiracy and cheating. However, it had also charge-sheeted Mr. Chavan under the Prevention of Corruption Act, a point which the Governor’s order did not specifically mention.

“This means we cannot prosecute Mr. Chavan for criminal conspiracy or cheating. But there is no clarity on whether he can be prosecuted under the Prevention of Corruption Act. We will leave that to the court to decide,” said a senior CBI officer.

When contacted in Nagpur, Mr. Chavan said, “I do not want to comment on this. I have only learnt about this from the media.”

Mr. Chavan resigned as the Chief Minister in 2010 in the wake of revelations that two of his family members owned flats in the building. The CBI filed a chargesheet in the case which named him and 12 others. However, in accordance with Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which seeks to protect public servants from being prosecuted for discharging their duties, the CBI had to seek the governor’s sanction before proceeding further.

In its chargesheet, the probe agency had accused Mr. Chavan of entering into a criminal conspiracy with the other accused to grant additional building rights to the Adarsh Society. It alleged that in return he got two flats allotted to his family members. At the time, Mr. Chavan was the State Revenue Minister..

In order to grant additional building rights, the agency alleged Mr. Chavan had sanctioned changes in the Development Plan in collusion with bureaucrats in the State urban development department. The CBI had also alleged that he had sanctioned the allotment of flats to civilians in a building initially meant for defence personnel.

Apart from Mr. Chavan, the CBI had named several former bureaucrats in its charge-sheet, including former Mumbai municipal commissioner Jairaj Phatak, former State Information Commissioner Ramanand Tiwari who was then Urban Development Secretary, then principal secretary to the Chief Minister Subhash Lala, former deputy urban development secretary P.V. Deshmukh and former Mumbai collector Pradeep Vyas. They had all given clearances to Adarsh society. Their relatives later got flats in the building, which the CBI alleged was an act of quid pro quo.

Meanwhile, the CBI has also completed its inquiry into benami flats in the building. It had earlier told the court that there were many benami flats in the building and that it would file a supplementary chargesheet on this.