In a move aimed at letting politicians involved off the hook while holding bureaucrats to account, the Maharashtra cabinet on Thursday partially accepted the report of the judicial commission that probed the Adarsh housing society scam.
The decision came after chief minister Prithviraj Chavan held a series of brainstorming sessions with cabinet colleagues and key bureaucrats over the past two days on how best to address Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s public criticism of the government decision to reject the report.
During a press conference on Thursday, Chavan gave a clean chit to the politicians named in the report. The report had indicted several politicians including four former chief ministers — Ashok Chavan, late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Shivajirao Nilangekar-Patil — for blatant violations of statutory provisions.
Read: Revisiting report an eyewash, says Opposition
Citing a Supreme Court case between TT Antony and state of Kerala in 2001, Chavan said no fresh criminal action would be taken against the leaders, as no criminality can be established against them.
“Multiple action can’t be taken for the same offence. The CBI has registered an FIR against the guilty, and they have been chargesheeted,” he said.
While the politicians may get away with just a slap on the wrist, bureaucrats held guilty of quid pro quo and not following norms and rules while allotting various permissions under the environment, town planning acts and the revenue code will be penalised.
Read: Chidambaram attacks BJP for 'cherrypicking' on Adarsh scam
“A fresh inquiry will be initiated and officials found guilty will face action under the All India Services Rules, Maharashtra Civil Services Rules, and the MRTP Act,” Chavan said.
The CM also said the membership of the owners of the 25 illegal flats identified in the report would be scrapped following due process.
The 22 benami flats will also face legal action under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988.
When asked if the state government had advised Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan to refuse the sanction to prosecute Ashok Chavan, the CM said the governor was the head of the state and didn’t need the government’s guidance.
Read: Retd judge who headed panel is disappointed
Chavan reiterated that the land belonged to the state government and the plot where the building stands was not reserved for widows of Kargil heroes.
“Though the central government has views contrary to this, we will again make our stand clear to the Centre. Both these contentions have been accepted by the two-member Adarsh panel in its interim report,” he said.