The bank accounts of the controversial Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society will not be de-freezed, the Bombay high court said on Wednesday, adding that it did not want to interfere with Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.
The Colaba society has been accused of violating environmental norms and getting land on the promise that houses would be built for war veterans and widows. However, most of the flats went to politicians, bureaucrats and military commanders, many of them in a position to influence clearances.
In the inquiry that followed, the society’s accounts were frozen and the building declared illegal by the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests.
A division bench of Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice Rajesh Ketkar expressed satisfaction with the CBI investigation after going through a progress report.
The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, including one filed by Adarsh challenging the freezing of its two bank accounts.
Adarsh’s lawyer pointed out that the society was unable to pay its dues and lawyers’ fees. The court brushed aside the plea for legal expenses but allowed Adarsh to file an affidavit by March 25 asking it be allowed to draw enough money to pay its statutory dues.
The society said it had to clear dues of Rs 32 lakh.
Additional Solicitor-General Darius Khambata said it was suspected that several flats in the society were bought through illegal transactions and the money had found its way to the society’s accounts.
The CBI filed an affidavit in reply to the society’s petition, stating the accounts were frozen in order to verify the allegedly benami transactions made by some of the accused.
If the society was allowed to operate the accounts, it said, the proceeds of crime would be utilised and evidence would be lost.
YP Singh, lawyer for one of the petitioners, said the CBI had not taken steps against Central ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde despite being given specific information disclosing their alleged complicity in the scam.
“Only the small fry have been named as accused,” Singh said.
“The main players have been shielded.”
The court, however, said the CBI did not hesitate in naming former chief minister Ashok Chavan in the first information report (FIR). The judge said the CBI should be given time.
The CBI had on January 29 registered a case against 13 persons, including Chavan and retired army officials, bureaucrats and government officials, on charges of criminal conspiracy, fraud and misuse of official powers.
The agency later, on the court’s direction, amended the FIR to include provisions of the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act.