Comparing the Pune land scam, where bogus documents were allegedly used to pass orders to grab land, with the 2G scam where spectrums were allocated without auction, the Bombay high court on Monday said it is contemplating to transfer probe to the central bureau of investigation (CBI).
Hearing a public interest litigation filed by BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari, a division bench of justice BH Marlapalle and justice UD Salvi asked the officer in-charge of the CBI, ACB, to remain present in the court on the next hearing, February 10.
The petition alleged that between 1976 and 2005, 11,894 returns (statements of property extracts and details of persons having interest in the land) were filed under the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act (ULCRA), 1976, in Pune. Based on them, bogus documents were used to pass orders to avoid surrendering excess land to the state.
“This is a mini-2G scam. Lakhs of square feet land had been released on fake and bogus orders under the ULCRA,” said justice Marlapalle on Monday.
On the basis of the report submitted by retired IAS officer Sudhakar Joshi, who was appointed by the government to scrutinise 235 files where alleged orders were passed under the Act, the court said that prima facie there was involvement of a minister of state in the scam.
“We have gone through Joshi’s report. It is a very serious matter. Prima facie we (court) are of the conclusion that a minister of state seems to be involved in the scam,” said justice Marlapalle.
The high court had earlier directed the additional collector and competent authorities to lodge the FIRs within a week and asked the principal secretary of the urban development department to file affidavit.
Following the order, nearly 45 different complaints had been lodged with different police stations in Pune.
The affidavit filed by TC Benjamin, principal secretary, urban development department, said that the government has decided to initiate a departmental inquiry against all the officers involved in passing illegal orders in 45 cases.
Bhandari’s advocate Ganesh Sovani argued that despite a prima facie evidence against bureaucrat Yogesh Mhase, he is still the officer on special duty to home minister RR Patil.
The public prosecutor Pandurang Pol, however, sought time to take instructions from the government whether this matter would be transferred to the central investigating agency.
After the petition was filed, the probe was handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in November 2005.
The petition alleges that a meeting took place in Patil’s chamber at the Mantralaya on September 26, 2009, and was attended by SPS Yadav, the then CID chief, and Avinash Mokashi, the then deputy superintendent of the CID and investigating officer. Mokashi, in an affidavit filed earlier, had said that after the meeting, Yadav passed an order staying the arrests.
Mokashi had recommended Mhase’s arrest and that of five others on March 7, 2007.