The Maharashtra government on Wednesday told the Bombay high court that the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) will register an FIR against former state revenue minister Eknath Khadse over allegations of corruption in MIDC land deal case.
Special counsel for the state, senior advocate Niteen Pradhan also said the Pune police was inept at probing cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, and accordingly, the probe into the case against Khadse and his family members will be transferred to the Maharashtra ACB.
A bench of Justices Ranjit More and Revati Mohite-Dere directed that the ACB’s probe be conducted independently and expeditiously, and that the ACB must not let the previous findings of the Pune Police or the state appointed Judicial Commission weigh upon its own probe.
The bench also directed that the probe be supervised by an officer not below the rank of Additional Director General of the ACB.
The state however, initially objected to such mandatory supervision saying that it was “unnecessary” since the ACB’s probe would be an honest one.
Pradhan argued that one could repose trust into the probing agency for if the “ACB wasn’t believed to be corruption free, then no other state organisation could be considered incorrupt.”
The state’s decision to transfer the probe to the ACB and to register an FIR comes after much prodding by the HC as initially it had submitted that it wished to wait for the Judicial Commission’s report to ascertain if Khadse had a role to play in the land scam.
In February this year, the state had told the court that the Pune police had not detected any “prima facie cognisable offence” in the case.
On Wednesday, advocate Pradhan informed the court of the transfer of probe but initially argued vehemently against registering the FIR.
He urged the court to allow for the transfer of probe and to give ACB the liberty to decide, on the basis of its findings, whether or not an FIR was warranted against Khadse.
The bench, however, refused to make any such concession and said it will only accept the state’s submission on transfer of probe if it committed to begin the probe by registering an FIR.
The bench also decided against disposing of the case so that it can keep track of the ACB’s progress in the case.
The court was hearing a plea filed by a social activist Hemant Gavande alleging, among other things, that Khadse had purchased a three-acre plot at Bhosri, owned Industrial Development Corporation in the name of his kin for Rs 3.75 crore as against the market price of Rs 40 crore.
Gavande had first made these allegations in July 2016 and Khadse was forced to resign from his post of the state revenue minister soon after.
The judicial committee, headed by retired Bombay HC judge Dinkar Zoting was constituted to conduct an inquiry.
Gavande however, approached HC arguing that besides the commission, the state police too must act upon the complaint that he had registered against Khadse on the above allegations.
HC had then directed the police to act upon the above complaint and is likely to take up the matter for further hearing on April 3.