The state government is banking on the report of the two-member JA Patil commission to reopen the Adarsh case against Ashok Chavan, state Congress president and former chief minister.
Chavan on Thursday accused the BJP-led government of political vendetta for recommending to the governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao to give permission to prosecute him. The state Cabinet recently recommended action against Chavan in response to a query to it from the governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao. Rao is considering the case afresh after his predecessor K Sankaranarayanan had refused the Central Bureau of Investigation sanction to prosecute Chavan in December 2013.
The BJP-led government’s reasoning is that the Patil Commission’s report was not considered by the investigation agency or Sankaranarayanan and it could thus be the basis of ‘fresh evidence’ for the CBI.
“We have recommended prosecution against Chavan to the governor. This report was tabled by the state government after the previous governor’s decision. As such its findings were not considered by CBI. The findings indicted Chavan for his role in the scam,’’ said a senior BJP minister. He added that the advocate general had said reopening the case was justified.
Prior sanction from the governor was required under Section 197 of the CrPc as Chavan was chief minister and revenue minister when the alleged offence was committed in the Adarsh scam.
Chavan, however, said, “This is vendetta politics by BJP, which is being played out against Congress leaders whether it’s Digvijay Singh or Sachin Pilot or I. There is no fresh evidence in the case. I have been raising my voice against government failures especially drought, we have done well in local polls so this is their way of trying to get back at us.’’
“We will fight this out and go in for a legal recourse. After the governor in 2013 considered the case in toto, took legal opinion and then stated clearly reasons for refusal, a sanction cannot be sought again,’’ Chavan told HT.
Chavan, who had to make way for Prithviraj Chavan as CM in 2010 in the wake of the Adarsh scam, was one of only two Congressmen to have survived the Modi wave and got elected to Lok Sabha from Maharashtra in 2014. After the Congress suffered a defeat in assembly elections that were held six months later, Chavan was made state Congress president.
Legal experts said the BJP-led government was on legally tenable grounds if the case was being reopened on the basis of new evidence. ``If CBI has found new evidence in the case on the basis of the findings of the report then the sanction can be sought again from the governor. It is true that the report was tabled in the Assembly after the governor’s decision. However, it remains to be seen if there is anything new in the case or it is a political move,’ said former IPS officer turned lawyer and activist, YP Singh, who was in the forefront of exposing the Adarsh scam.
The commission, which was appointed by Prithviraj Chavan, had specifically indicted Chavan for quid pro quo (directly benefiting from clearances granted) as three of his relatives – sister-in-law, mother-in-law and uncle of his wife Ameeta – had got flats in the tower. It had said that Chavan had given political patronage to the Adarsh tower promoters. However, unlike the CBI, it had not held him guilty of enabling 40 per cent civilian quota in the tower, primarily sought by the housing society for war heroes, widows and army personnel during his tenure as revenue minister.