Minister of state for transport and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Gulabrao Deokar was arrested on Monday for his alleged involvement in a 1997 housing scam related to the construction of 11,000 low-cost houses in Jalgaon in north Maharashtra.
However, the Jalgaon rural constituency legislator - the first minister in the state to have been arrested on charges of corruption and criminal conspiracy while in office - was released on bail after he was remanded to judicial custody till May 30. A conviction under these charges can lead to life imprisonment.
Deokar was a member of the Jalgaon Municipal Council from 1995 to 2000. In 1997, the council floated tenders for construction of the low-cost housing. However, the project never took off and around R46 crore was siphoned off under the scheme.
"Deokar was arrested on the basis of the FIR filed in 2006," said additional superintendent of police Ishu Sindhu, who has been investigating the case for over a year. Sindhu said a fresh summons was sent to Deokar on Monday, following which he came to the police station and was then arrested.
As many as 25 former corporators were also arrested on Saturday. Of these 15 were granted bail, while the rest were remanded in police custody.
So far, 38 people, including former housing minister and Shiv Sena legislator Suresh Jain have been arrested in this case. Jain was arrested in March.
Following his arrest, Deokar tendered his resignation to state party chief Madhukar Pichad. The NCP has decided not to accept his resignation until the court gives a final verdict in the case.
However, the relief for the minister is likely to be short-lived as investigators are expected to file a chargesheet in the case against 53 accused, including Deokar, within the next ten days.