The Bombay High Court sought to know “the change in circumstances” due to which Maharashtra governor granted sanction to try former CM Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh housing society scam after initially refusing it.
A bench of Justice R V More sought the explanation while hearing former Chief Minister Chavans petition challenging Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao’s decision to grant sanction to the CBI to prosecute him in the scam.
Rao has allowed the CBI in February 2016 to prosecute Chavan, now a sitting Congress MP, allegedly for committing criminal conspiracy and cheating respectively under sections 120 B and 420 of the Indian Penal Code besides various other provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Appearing for Chavan, his counsel Amit Desai told the bench that the governor had first denied the permission but later granted it after the CBI approached him again with fresh material against the former minister.
“What was the change in circumstances? Why was it first refused and then granted? What got changed?” Justice More quipped.
To this, Desai said, “There is no fresh material as claimed by the CBI. The only change was the findings of a judicial commission (set up to probe the Adarsh scam) and certain observations made by a single-judge bench of the high court while dismissing a petition by Chavan seeking deletion of his name as an accused in the case.”
At this, CBI counsel Hiten Venegaonkar pointed out to the court that subsequently even a bench headed by Justice More himself had made certain observations against the accused persons while dismissing a petition filed by Adarsh society challenging the order of demolition passed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).
The bench today posted the petition for further hearing on April 17 when the State Advocate General Rohit Deo would appear in the matter for the governor.
Chavans petition termed the governor’s order as “arbitrary, illegal and unjust” and passed without “proper application of mind” and with “malafide intentions.”
The CBI has accused Chavan of approving additional floor space index for Adarsh society in return for two flats for his relatives. He was also charged with illegally approving, as the then revenue minister, the allotment of 40 per cent of the flats to civilians.
While the CBI has Chavan named him as an accused in its FIR in December 2013, erstwhile Governor K Sankaranarayanan had refused to grant permission to the agency to prosecute him.
At this, Chavan had moved the high court in March 2015 for deletion of his name as accused in the scam on the ground that the governor had refused to grant permission to prosecute him, but the court had dismissed the plea.
Following this, the CBI approached the Governor’s office again to seek the sanction, which was granted in February 2016.