The Congress-NCP government may have tried to push the Adarsh society scam under the carpet by rejecting the report of the commission which probed the scandal, but it still has a lot of answering to do.
IPS officer-turned-lawyer YP Singh said the rejection will have no impact on the PIL pending before the Bombay high court.
Praveen Wategaonkar, an activist who filed the PIL in May 2011, said, “The report only reinforces my allegations against the state government. The rejection will work to my advantage. In April 2012, I had filed a detailed affidavit in which I had named Sushilkumar Shinde and a host of others who had a role in this mega scam. The report indicted all of them. I am determined to get justice.”
Wategaonkar has made the state government, the CBI, the income tax department and other agencies respondents to his PIL.
After the controversy broke in 2010, then chief minister Ashok Chavan, whose relatives had been allotted flats in the Colaba building, had to step down, paving the way for incumbent Prithviraj Chavan to take over. Bureaucrats, including former municipal commissioner Jairaj Phatak, were also arrested by the CBI, which is investigating the case, for their alleged connection with the scam.
Now, legal experts want the government to come clean on the reasons behind its rejection of the report. “The government has to come out clean on this. Otherwise, this is a complete case of a cover-up,” said senior lawyer Vibhav Krishna. He pointed out that the high court had issued orders in the issue from time to time, which had eventually forced the state government to table the report.
“This is a case of malafide exercise of power,” said Krishna, adding that this was a “loss of face for the Congress as well as the NCP”. He also accused the state of “misusing powers” to reject the report.
“From the legal point of view, the state was within its powers to accept (a report) or not. But, if it doesn't accept, it must give reasons for it, (whether this is because of) procedural impropriety or because it doesn't agree with the conclusions,” he stressed.
“Now, the only hope is the Lokpal (Bill),” said Singh. “This is blowing hot and blowing cold,” he said, pointing to how the cabinet had accepted the commission's previous interim report.
Senior lawyer and former Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Adhik Shirodkar said, “This was expected.” Ruing the fact that the state was acting with impunity, he added, “People are angry that politicians are making money while they are finding it tough to make ends meet.”
Lawyer Abha Singh said that though the cabinet had rejected the report, “the evidence collected holds good.” She pointed out that while lawyers could use the evidence and approach the court based on it, the parallel CBI action will continue.
Wategaonkar said, “A report which was submitted through a democratic process should have been accepted. Its rejection shows the arrogance of the state government.”