Even if the Adarsh society case does not end in convictions, enough ignominy has been heaped on former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan who was charge sheeted in the scam along with 12 others. Mr. Chavan has been accused of criminal conspiracy and abusing his official position when he was Revenue Minister over a decade ago to include civilians in the society and grant other favours. In turn, his mother-in law and other relatives got flats. There is a feeling in some sections that Mr. Chavan has been unfairly targeted and two other former Chief Ministers, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde, were also responsible. The CBI investigation is still open in the case of these two. While Mumbai is full of such frauds involving valuable land, what sets Adarsh apart is the nexus that was unravelled between politicians, bureaucrats and promoters — most of whom managed to cadge flats for their family members in a building which was blatantly illegal. The CBI is yet to officially reveal the details of the benami flats but there is evidence that this could involve more politicians or people close to them.

In comparison with Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, whose career graph shoots up every time the courts pass strictures against him, Mr. Chavan seems to lack a guardian angel. His cup of woes is full as he is also at the centre of a paid news controversy and his election has been contested on those grounds. If the CBI can prove the charges it has framed in the Adarsh case, it will definitely set a precedent. It is essential that the politicians and officers responsible for violating the laws of the land, abusing their office, and flouting the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) notification are given exemplary punishment. Real estate and housing equals power in Mumbai and few get caught for the numerous illegal transactions that take place. There is no need to be dismissive about the relatively small size of the scam in rupee terms when compared to other, more massive frauds. What is untenable too is the constant carping that Mr. Chavan is less culpable than the others and that he only grabbed “a few flats.” Instead of blaming the media for targeting bureaucrats and politicians, the State government should launch a comprehensive investigation into fraudulent housing societies, not to speak of the sharp practices that go on throughout Mumbai in the name of slum redevelopment.

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