In an indication that recently ousted revenue minister Eknath Khadse has a window open for a comeback, CM Devendra Fadnavis said the probe into the land deal allegations against the senior BJP leader will not be conducted under the Commission of Inquiry (COI) Act. Fadnavis announced on Monday that a retired judge will carry out the probe in the next three months.
“It [probe under Commission of Inquiry Act] goes on for years. We want a judicial probe by a retired judge, to be completed in three months. The name of the retired judge has been finalised and will be announced soon,” said the chief minister, adding that the probe will focus on the Bhosari land deal.
The inquiry will be conducted under four terms of reference, including whether the land belonged to the MIDC, if the land acquisition process was completed, legality of the deal and if there was any conflict of interest.
An investigation under the COI Act while not binding on the government can seriously harm a reputation of the person found guilty under it. Such an inquiry held as a court proceeding, allows for summoning of witnesses as well as production of evidence by the government and anyone else in the case.
A recent example of a probe conducted under the COI Act was the Adarsh scam inquiry. The findings of which have been used by the Fadnavis government to re-open a CBI case against former chief minister and senior Congress leader Ashok Chavan.
By ruling out a probe under the COI Act, the state has opened itself to criticism.
The chief minister has already given a clean chit to Khadse in the controversy related to the phone calls from underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and a graft case involving the former minister’s alleged assistant Gajanan Patil. Fadnavis, at the BJP state executive meeting, had said that Khadse will come out clean after the ‘agnipariksha’ (trial by fire) in the land deal scam.
Khadse had resigned on June 4 following a series of controversies.