Impelled into action by the Bombay High Court, which recently expressed its displeasure over the tardy probe into the Adarsh Housing Society scam case, the Central Bureau of Investigation has registered a criminal case against 13 persons and conducted searches in the premises of five of them. While the First Information Report (FIR) only sets the investigative ball in motion, the importance of fast-tracking this case — on which the CBI has been conducting a leisurely preliminary inquiry based on the Defence Ministry's complaint in November 2010 — cannot be underestimated. The scandal, which revolves around how apartments in a Mumbai cooperative housing society earmarked for families of Kargil heroes were diverted to relatives of influential Maharashtra politicians and senior armed forces officials, has jolted the nation's collective conscience. It has exposed a rapacious nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, and armed services personnel. It is a tale of sleazy collusion and a brazen disregard for laws, rules, and procedures. The FIR names bureaucrats, retired and serving armed forces officers, and politicians, one of them being former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who as the State Revenue Minister dealt with the Adarsh land files between 2001 and 2003.

The Adarsh Housing Society scandal is being tackled in other ways as well. The Army has ordered a court of inquiry to determine the involvement of serving and retired officers, some of whom were allotted flats that should have gone to the Kargil war widows. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has adopted a bold and uncompromising position in ordering the demolition of the entire building on the ground that no clearance was obtained under the Coastal Regulation Zone notification of 1991. It is vitally important to ensure that all the guilty in this shocking criminal conspiracy to grab real estate by flouting rules and manipulating records are punished. While some of those named in the FIR played a key role in promoting the cooperative housing society, the CBI must investigate — efficiently, independently, and without giving in to pressure — the full dimension of the racket, which could not have been pulled off without the active cooperation or tacit approval of other powerful politicians belonging to the ruling alliance. Anything less will be letting down a nation that is deeply ashamed of the Adarsh scandal. It will also be an unpardonable betrayal of the soldiers who gave their lives in fighting the Kargil war as well as their families who were robbed of the benefits of the housing cooperative society that was set up to compensate, in some small measure, their personal loss.

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