In a move which effectively exposes the hollowness of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s claim of fighting corruption, chief minister (CM) Prithviraj Chavan’s cabinet on Thursday only partially accepted the Adarsh commission report. The cabinet gave a clean chit to Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, late Congress CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, ex-CM Shivajirao Nilangekar and two NCP ministers Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope.
However, it did not come to the rescue of former CM Ashok Chavan as a charge sheet has already been filed against him by the CBI. In any case, governor K Sankaranarayanan had rejected the CBI’s request for sanction to prosecute Chavan, despite the fact that the commission had clearly stated that the former CM had favoured the controversial building project for a quid pro quo.
The latest development means that while officials will face the music, politicians will go scot-free.
On December 20, Chavan had placed the report before the state legislature and said that the cabinet has rejected all its findings except the ones relating to the ownership of the land on which the building was erected and the reservation on it. The government concurred with the commission’s finding that the land belonged to the state government and that it was not reserved for Kargil widows. However, Chavan was forced to do a rethink on December 27 when Rahul Gandhi publicly said that he disagreed with the Chavan cabinet’s decision to reject the report.
Following this there was speculation that Chavan would be forced to do a neat somersault and accept the report. But he has only partially accepted the report. Sources in the Congress said if the report was accepted in toto, it would cause a major embarrassment to Shinde and the opposition would clamour for his resignation.
Senior BJP leader and leader of opposition in the legislative council, Vinod Tawde, said Thursday’s decision by Chavan’s team showed that the Congress was incapable of combating corruption. “Rahul Gandhi has a lot of answering to do,’’ he said.
Chavan told newspersons that the report had only accused certain political leaders (Shinde, etc) of political patronage, but they have not been accused of being part of a criminal conspiracy.
fd naHence, no action is contemplated against these leaders, he said. Without naming Ashok Chavan, he said no FIR can be filed against him since the CBI has already filed one against the former CM. There is a Supreme Court ruling that more than one FIR cannot be filed in the same case, he said. The CM said that the state government was “co-operating” with the CBI inquiry.
However, the 12 public servants who themselves or their relatives are members of the society, and have been found guilty of violating service rules, will have to undergo a departmental inquiry and face action from the competent authority, he said.
Chavan said the commission found 22 flats to have been purchased using benami transactions and added that while the CBI had filed a case in this regard, action would be taken to cancel such benami allotments.
The report has indicted seven public servants of a quid pro quo and the CBI has filed an FIR and charge sheet against 13 people, including five public servants.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said departments like urban development and environment would take action under relevant laws on issues like the width of the Captain Prakash Pethe Marg being reduced, scrapping the reservation on a plot reserved for the BEST and converting it into a residential one, violation of the DCR while using FSI for increasing the height of the building, and action would be taken against the concerned people and officers too.
Chavan added that the commission had held that 25 of the society’s members were ineligible and added that the district collector, Mumbai city, and the revenue and forests department, would begin the process of cancelling their membership under due legal process. Action will also be taken against those who gave membership to ineligible people.
The society has already challenged in the high court, the decision of the Union ministry of environment and forests asking for the building, which is located in the CRZ-II zone, to be demolished.
The two-member commission has already submitted its interim report in which it upheld the state’s stance that the land which houses the Colaba high-rise belongs to the state government.
The defence ministry claims that the building came up on its land.