Those who have not been named as accused in the Adarsh co-operative housing society scam but own benami flats in the Colaba high-rise are also under the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) scanner.
A benami property is property paid for by one person but registered in the name of another. People enter into benami transactions mainly to evade taxes.
Additional solicitor general Darius Khambata informed the Bombay High Court on Thursday that the CBI has already started probing the source of the money each member paid for a flat in Adarsh. He assured the court that the CBI would ensure that such members are also pulled up.
The revelation came after the division bench of justice BH Marlapalle and justice UD Salvi suggested that the CBI slap provisions of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988, on errant members.
“You will have to analyse every membership and trail the source of money paid for purchasing the flats,” the judges told Khambata. “We do not understand why section 4 of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988, was not slapped [on the accused] along with provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act in the case.
Section 4 of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act prohibits real owners of benami property from using any of their rights on such properties and vests them in the government.
Many members of Adarsh society are suspected to be fronts for influential personalities. The suspicion stems from the fact that many of them live in interior parts of the state and had no reason to know about a housing society coming up in south Mumbai. “The CBI should investigate how the moneys have been paid by members, whether in cheques or by some other means,” the judges said. “Because purchasing a flat in south Mumbai in not a simple thing nowadays.”
Originally meant to house families of serving and retired defence personnel, Adarsh society came under the scanner following reports that flats were doled out to politicians, top defence personnel and bureaucrats in return for clearances.
The high court has also directed the CBI to submit a progress report on the investigation within three weeks. The court was hearing three public interest litigations filed by former journalist Ketan Tirodkar, activists Simpreet Singh and Mahendra Singh.