A special court on Saturday dismissed CBI's application seeking to drop Maharashtra's former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan from the list of accused in Adarsh Housing Society scam case, in a blow to the Congress leader ahead of Lok Sabha and state assembly elections.
"CBI's plea stands rejected," CBI court judge S G Dighe said.
After Governor K Sankaranarayanan had last month refused to sanction Chavan's prosecution on an application by CBI, the premier investigative agency had moved the court on Wednesday for allowing it to remove the name of the former Chief Minister who has been charge-sheeted, along with 12 others, in the case.
A reasoned, detailed order is likely to come next week.
In the course of arguments, Special Public Prosecutor Bharat Badami said though CBI would be "very happy" to prosecute Chavan, "our hands are tied" as the Governor had refused to grant sanction for his prosecution under section 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) and other charges under IPC.
When the judge asked why Chavan could not be proceeded against under the Prevention of Corruption Act for which gubernatorial sanction was not required, the prosecutor said the provisions of PC Act needed to be backed by those under IPC for the case to be strong. Since the Governor had not sanctioned prosecution under the Indian Penal Code, the case against Chavan may become weak, he contended.
He also said there was no provision under the law to appeal against Governor's refusal of sanction but the agency can request him for a review of his decision if it comes up with additional evidence against Chavan, which was not the case.
CBI had told the court at the last hearing that the Governor's decision was "non-appealable".
The court had reserved its order on the application for today.
CBI had charge-sheeted Chavan and others in the case in July 2012 but the court is yet to take cognizance as a PIL seeking a probe into benami flats in Adarsh Housing Society and use of laundered money is pending before the high court.
Acceptance of CBI's plea by the court would have come as a big relief for both Congress and Chavan, the only former Chief Minister to have been made accused in the case though two of his predecessors--Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde-- were also under the lens. Deshmukh has since died.
The court also inquired about the status of CBI's applications seeking sanction to prosecute suspended IAS officers Jairaj Phatak and Pradeep Vyas, both charge-sheeted in the case.
The prosecutor told the court that though a formal sanction is yet to be received, both the Central Vigilance Commission and Department of Personnel and Training have said a prima facie case exists against them and sanction should be accorded.
A judicial commission of inquiry set up by the state government had indicted Chavan, Deshmukh and Union Home Minister Shinde over "blatant violations" of statutory provisions in granting various clearances to the scam-tainted Adarsh Housing Society.
The judicial panel's report had said "there was certainly a nexus between the acts of Chavan and benefits derived by his close relatives. The membership process clearly indicates that grant of requisite permission by Chavan was by way of quid pro quo."
Chavan (55), who had to step down as chief minister after the scam surfaced, had challenged his inclusion in the charge sheet on the ground that no sanction for prosecution had been obtained from the Governor. CBI had maintained since he was a former Chief Minister at the time of being charge-sheeted, gubernatorial approval was not required.
The court had, however, directed the agency to get sanction for Chavan's prosecution which was refused by Governor K Sankaranarayanan.
CBI had alleged in its charge sheet that Chavan had increased the floor space index of the controversial Adarsh society in return for flats for his relatives. Chavan, as Revenue Minister, had also asked the housing society to include 40 per cent members from civilian category despite it being originally meant only for war veterans, CBI had alleged, claiming Chavan played a key role in the scam.
Chavan's mother-in-law Bhagvati Sharma, sister-in-law Seema Sharma and father-in-law’s brother Madanlal Sharma have flats in the society. All of them have been held ineligible by the judicial panel to own flats in the society.
All 13 accused have been charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating and criminal misconduct under the Indian Penal Code besides Prevention of Corruption Act.