The Bombay high court on Thursday ordered the Maharashtra’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to complete its investigation into allegations of corruption and money-laundering against NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal and his associates and file a final report in two months.
The ACB told the court it is yet to conduct preliminary inquiries into five of the nine separate allegations of corruption against Bhujbal, his son Pankaj, nephew Sameer and others.
Responding to a public interest litigation filed by local office bearers of the Aam Admi Party, the ACB reclassified the 11 original corruption allegations against the Bhujbal into nine, advocate general Anil Singh told the court. He said the ACB has so far filed two first information reports (FIR) against the Bhujbals – one for the awarding of a contract to build the new Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi, and the other concerning irregularities in the allotment of a plot of land at Kalina.
A third FIR against the Bhujbals was filed by the Navi Mumbai police on June 13, for allegedly cheating people who had invested in a housing project at Khaghar. Singh also told the court that the Enforcement Directorate had registered two enforcement case information reports (ECIR) against the former minister and others based on the corruption cases registered by the ACB.
Of the six remaining allegations, one pertains to national highways and therefore needs to be investigated by a central agency, Singh said. He asked the court for two months to complete preliminary inquiries into the other five. Anil Anturkar, AAP’s lawyer, opposed this. He said that according to a Supreme Court order preliminary enquiries have to be completed in a week, but they are yet to be done in this case despite several months having passed.
He also said he was apprehensive about the ACB’s actions – or lack thereof – against Bhujbal and others, pointing out that no arrests have yet been made. Had these charges been against an ordinary public servant, he said, the ACB’s first step would have been to arrest and interrogate the person.
The judges read a report that the ACB had submitted in a sealed envelope on June 12 and ordered the agency to complete preliminary inquiries into four of the remaining allegations in a month. It gave the ACB two months to complete its inquiry into the fifth, as it involves scrutinising a large number of documents and other materials.
The judges also noticed in the report that the Nasik collector had sought permission from the revenue and forest department to take action against the Bhujbal-owned Mumbai Educational Trust for violations in the allotment of a five-hectare plot adjoining Bhujbal Knowledge City, and clarified that the authorities were free to take action in accordance with the law without waiting for court orders on such violations.