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Housing scam: Court rejects state’s appeal against acquittal

A sessions court has rejected an appeal filed by Maharashtra government challenging an order of a magistrate acquitting 61 people of various charges such as fraud and fabricating records in a multi-crore housing scam.

Most of those involved in the case were employees of City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), an infrastructure agency of the state government, the state secretariat and builders.

“Having considered the facts and circumstances of the matter and evidence on record, it cannot be gathered that the trial court has not discharged its duty in conducting the matter fairly,” Sessions Judge A S Bhaisare observed in his order.

A copy of the order was released by the court on Tuesday.

The sessions court noted that the trial judge had rightly appreciated the evidence on record with sound reasons.

“There may be lacuna on the part of investigating officer while conducting probe. But this is not sufficient to hold the guilt of the accused for the alleged offence,” said the judge.

“I found no merits in the appeal to interfere with the finding of the trial judge, as it is based on sound reasons in consonance with the evidence on record. Hence, I record my findings to all the points in the negative,” the judge said.

A total of 65 accused were charged for offences under sections 177, 197, 198, 201, 403, 406, 417, 420, 467, 468 and 471 and 120 (b) of Indian Penal Code and under section 147 of Maharashtra Cooperative Housing Societies Act.

Four of them died during the trial and three others passed away during pendency of the appeal, the court noted.

Of the 58 accused who are alive now, most of them are above the age of 50 years and some even above 60 and 70 years of age, the court observed.

On June 4, 2013, the trial court had acquitted 61 accused, including senior bureaucrats, for want of evidence.

They were accused of siphoning of public funds to the tune of Rs 92 lakh by misusing a backward class housing scheme.
According to prosecution, the officials, largely from

Mantralaya (state secretariat), along with a Navi Mumbai-based builder, allegedly floated SITI Tower Cooperative Housing Society in 1999 and sought assistance of Rs 1.44 crore from tribal development department to purchase a 16,000 square feet plot in Nerul, Navi Mumbai.

The first installment of Rs 92 lakh was released to the society in March 1999.

However, an inquiry revealed that the housing society was not a registered body and the land that they claimed to have purchased at Nerul was originally allotted to 20 CIDCO gardeners at a subsidised rate for their housing project.

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