In relief for former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, the Bombay High Court on Friday struck down the sanction accorded by Maharashtra Governor C.V. Rao to prosecute the senior Congress leader in the Adarsh Society scam.
The main ground for the court’s decision was that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) failed to present any fresh evidence against Chavan while seeking sanction from the Governor to prosecute him, Chavan’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Amit Desai told mediapersons.
In February 2016, Governor Rao had granted sanction to CBI to prosecute Chavan on various charges, including criminal conspiracy, cheating, misuse of powers and authority, bypassing norms, etc, in the Adarsh Society scam, under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act.
Setting aside the Governor’s sanction, a division bench comprising Justice Ranjit More and Justice Sadhana Jadhav ruled that “it cannot be sustained”.
The court also held that the material collected by the investigating agency must be admissible and capable of being converted into evidence which can be substantiated at the trial state.
Incidentally, the previous Governor K. Sankaranarayanan had declined to grant the sanction in December 2013, but after three years when the CBI again approached the Governor’s office it was granted by Governor Rao.
Chavan had filed a petition challenging Governor Rao’s decision, terming it as “arbitrary, illegal, unjust” and that the sanction to prosecute him was accorded with “malafide intentions”.
During the hearing, his lawyer Desai argued that the February 2016 sanction order was “politically biased” and motivated by changed political circumstances rather than any change in the material aspects of the case.
Following the revelations in the scam and its political fallout Chavan had resigned as Chief Minister in November 2010.
Among others, the names of at least three other former Chief Ministers (besides Chavan), ex-ministers, top bureaucrats – including the controversial IFS officer and former Deputy Consul-General of India in New York, Devyani Khobragade – had figured in the scam.
The sensational scam involving the 31-storied building in Colaba, south Mumbai, was first exposed in late 2010 with allegations that politicians and bureaucrats had usurped the flats in the society meant to house war widows and war heroes.
Coming a day after the Special CBI Court verdict in the 2G scam cases in New Delhi, Friday’s Bombay High Court verdict in the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society imbroglio would be seen as another major embarrassment for the ruling BJP in the state and Centre.