Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is among 13 people charge sheeted by CBI today in the multi-crore Adarsh Housing Society scam. The 10,000-page CBI charge sheet was filed before the Registrar of a sessions court, nearly 18 months after the agency registered a case.
Mr Chavan has been charged with cheating and criminal conspiracy for recommending the allotment of 40 per cent of flats to civilians in what was supposed to be a society for defence personnel. The former Chief Minister, however, says it's a political conspiracy.
"It is a conspiracy hatched by political opponents to keep me out of public life, but they will not succeed. Ultimately the truth will prevail, I have done no wrong," Mr Chavan told NDTV.
The CBI had registered a case on January 29 last year against the former Maharashtra Chief Minister and 13 others, including senior bureaucrats and retired army personnel. The CBI today added another name to its chargesheet, R Bakshi, an ex-defence personnel.
The CBI says that three of Mr Chavan's relatives allegedly got flats in the society meant for Kargil War widows and Defence personnel. Later, Mr Chavan also granted building concessions by changing the area's development plan. Mr Chavan stepped down as chief minister in 2010.
Three former chief ministers of Maharashtra - Sushil Kumar Shinde, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan - are being questioned by the judicial panel in connection with the scam. Mr Chavan is the only former Chief Minister to have been made an accused by the CBI.
The Enforcement Directorate is also conducting a preliminary inquiry against Mr Chavan and 13 others for alleged money laundering in case. Mr Chavan was Chief Minister of Maharashtra from December 8, 2008 to November 9, 2010.
The CBI had in March 2011 arrested nine out of the 14 accused after receiving a rap on its knuckles from the High Court for not initiating action against the accused persons.
The nine arrested are - R C Thakur, secretary of Adarsh Housing Society, retired brigadier M M Wanchoo, former Congress MLC Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, both promoters of the society, former deputy secretary of urban development department P V Deshmukh, IAS officers Ramanand Tiwari and Jairaj Phatak, retired Major Generals A R Kumar and T K Kaul and former Mumbai collector Pradeep Vyas.
They were released on bail by a special CBI court after CBI failed to file charge sheet within the stipulated 60-day period after arrest. They have been charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court which is also hearing a petition filed by the Maharashtra state government has given two weeks' time for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to file a reply after the state government filed an affidavit questioning CBI's probe in scam.
The Maharashtra government had told the court that under the Dellhi Police Spl Establishment Act (under which CBI has been formed) a case can be probed only if the state government or the High Court sanctions it; neither of whom sanctioned their appointment.
The CBI had then said that since the land belongs to the Defence Ministry, it comes under the Centre and hence the request for CBI probe came from Ministry of Defence. Now the ministry has to two weeks to show the court that the Adarsh land under question indeed belonged to them, which is why they brought in the CBI.
The Adarsh society scam broke in 2010 when it emerged that on a prime plot in South Mumbai, an illegal 104-apartment society had come up in which key Defence personnel, bureaucrats, and politicians owned flats. It later emerged these men had colluded to grab a Defence plot and got it an illegal environmental clearance. It also got other concessions by claiming Kargil war heroes and widows were part of the society.