The former Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, Johny Joseph, has been named in the First Information Report filed in the controversial case of redevelopment of prime property of 1.51-lakh sq. feet in Mumbai’s Sion-Koliwada area. He was charged with cheating, forgery and being party to a criminal conspiracy.
Mr. Joseph is the State’s first former senior-most administrative officer of the State whose name has been registered in the FIR.
Based on the FIR, the Legal department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has sent a letter to the civic body’s Estates Department to conduct an enquiry into the allegations of bogus documents having been submitted to the civic body to get the ‘go ahead’ for the project. The entire project, which is expected to be worth rupees several crore, could come under jeopardy if the documents are found be forged after the enquiry.
Mr. Joseph, who was the BMC commissioner during 2004-2007, was named in the FIR along with 12 others. The others include six residents of the area who formed the Sheev-Koliwada CHS to go ahead with the redevelopment scheme, allegedly without consent of majority of residents. The developer, Pilot Construction Private Limited and architect of the redevelopment scheme have also been named in the FIR.
According to the FIR, all the documents of minutes of meeting in 2004 submitted to the BMC were either forged or completely false. Dead residents have been shown as the attendees in the meetings. All these documents were accepted by the BMC without any verification to go ahead with project, allege residents.
The FIR was filed after the residents’ lawyer Wesley Menezes approached Metropolitan Magistrate court in Kurla, as despite repeated attempts the police refused to file the FIR. A.S. Salgar, metropolitan magistrate in his January 28 said that, “it appears that no action has been taken by the police. Hence, considering the facts that the offence is cognisable and police are not taking any action, the direction under section 156 (3) of Cr.PC to inquire and investigate becomes necessary.” Following the court order, the FIR was registered on February 5.
BMC’s legal department in its internal letter has made it clear that since the residents have alleged the submission of bogus consent to BMC and demanded cancellation of the project, it should be enquired in detail. “You are requested to take due cognisance in the matter and take further steps in order issued under section 156 (3) of Cr. PC as name of the then M.C. is included in the FIR,” said the letter.
When contacted, Mr. Joseph told The Hindu, “As a Municipal Commissioner, I do not go out inspecting each and every file. There are number of officers who work under me and file comes to me, only after they scrutinise it. None of them have been named in the FIR. Putting my name seems an effort to grab attention.”