The Adarsh commission's interim report that has gone in favour of the state on land ownership may take the sting out of the scam, but it is unlikely to give any succour to officials in the dock.
The two-member commission set up by the state government was asked to look into 13 issues (see box) while conducting the probe into irregularities related to the 31-storey Colaba high-rise. With the first two terms of reference - land ownership and reservation (whether the land was reserved for housing defence personnel or Kargil war heroes) out of the way, the commission still has another 11 issues to tackle.
The focus of the inquiry now turn to whether any public servant had given permissions or clearances as quid pro quo to the society or which could attract provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Around 21 bureaucrats were found to have flats in Adarsh, of which five have been named as accused by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in its probe report. Of them, four have been arrested.
"For politicians named in the scam, the interim report will come as a relief, because until now, the case was being talked of as a conspiracy to grab defence land meant to house war heroes or widows," said a senior bureaucrat.
For instance, former chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan have passed on the buck in their affidavits to the panel, pointing out that the clearances were granted on basis of recommendation made by bureaucrats.
Chavan is the only politician named as accused by CBI. His mother-in-law had a flat in the society.
However, this may provide little relief to the officials involved. "The commission has been asked to look into the entire issues from illegalities, if any, in giving clearances to the society, and the role of public servants. The issue of quid pro quo is now central to the judicial commission," he added.
Under quid pro quo, the commission can recommend criminal proceedings against officials under the Prevention of Corruption Act, which can lead to imprisonment up to five years.