Gulabrao Deokar, minister of state of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), is likely to be the first minister in the history of the state to face trial while still holding public office. A charge sheet was filed against Deokar and 52 others by the police on Saturday in the 1997 housing scam in Jalgaon, North Maharashtra, related to the construction of 11,000 low-cost homes for the poor.
Deokar, NCP’s face in Jalgaon, faces charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery of documents and corruption under sections 120 (B), 420, 468, 490 of Indian Penal Code and section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).
A conviction under these charges can lead to life imprisonment. His party, however, remains unfazed about the serious charges being made against its minister. NCP’s top brass is unwilling to ask for his resignation on moral grounds, voicing an argument that one is innocent unless proven guilty.
“Let the case be decided by the court. The party is not rethinking about this issue. We are not going to ask him to resign,’’ said the state party president, Madhukar Pichad.
The case dates back to when Deokar was the member of the Jalgaon municipal council from 1995 to 2000. When the Gharkul scheme was approved, he was the president for 6 months. The scheme aimed at building 11,000 low-cost homes for the poor. But, the project never took off, though a construction tender was floated by the council and nearly Rs46 crore was siphoned off under the scheme. Former housing minister and current Shiv Sena legislator Suresh Jain, along with three others, has been arrested as the main accused in this scam.
Additional superintendent of police, Ishu Sindhu, who has been investigating the scam told HT, “With the filing of the charge sheet against all accused, the investigation has come to an end. We are waiting for the prosecution sanction by the government for the trial to start. Let’s hope the sanction comes soon.’’ However, it is very likely that the sanction will be delayed due to political pressure.