No evidence that Khadse was aware of his wife, son-in-law’s land deal in Bhosari, says ACB report
The anti-corruption bureau’s (ACB) clean chit to former revenue minister Eknath Khadse last month, in the controversial Bhosari land deal near Pune, primarily rests on the ground that there was no evidence to prove Khadse was aware about his wife and son-in-law buying the three-acre plot, said the agency’s investigative report which HT has accessed.
The controversy pertains to the purchase of a three-acre plot in Bhosari, near Pune, by Khadse’s kin for Rs 3.75 crore, against the prevalent market rate of Rs 30 crore. Khadse, who was the revenue minister, had to step down after investigations into the alleged graft and conflict of interest deal began in 2016. In May 2018, the ACB had given him a clean chit in the case.
The ACB also ruled out the conflict of interest charges against Khadse — over a meeting he had held with industry and revenue officials about paying the original owner of the plot compensation — because he had scrapped the minutes of this meeting later and the directives he issued were not implemented.
While the ACB said in its report, also called the C summary report, that it could not be conclusively proven that the former minister had indulged in impropriety or irregularity in the land deal, it has admitted that the meeting Khadse held on April 12, 2016 about the compensation was suspicious. The ACB in Pune submitted this report before a special court on April 27. The C summary report is a closure report, after a police investigation, submitted to a magistrate’s court when a case is neither true nor false, or was based on mistaken facts.
Through the entire investigation it could not be proven that Khadse was intimated or made aware of the Bhosari land deal by his wife or his son-in-law or any of the witnesses, accused and stakeholders in the case,’’ said the report.
The ACB had examined 18 witnesses in the case. The investigation against Khadse began in 2016, after a Pune businessman, Hemant Gawande, filed a complaint with the police alleging Khadse had misused his power as revenue minister to facilitate the deal to buy the land, owned by the industries department, for his family.
Gawande had alleged that while the market value of the plot was Rs 30 crore, Khadse paid only Rs 3.75 crore for it to the original owner. He said the minister was eyeing compensation worth nearly Rs 80 crore under the new Land Acquisition law for it. Khadse had become the first BJP minister who had to step down following such an allegation after the party swept to power. Gawande has called the ACB’s findings ludicrous, and said he was in the process of filing a protest petition. Another activist, Anjali Damania, has already filed a protest petition questioning the investigation.
“To give a clean chit on the grounds that the minister’s wife and son-in-law did not intimate him about the land deal is laughable,” Gawande said. “Did he just coincidentally hold an official meeting to ensure greater compensation to the owner for the land? By scrapping the minutes of the meeting, can you undo your action. There are various strands in the ACB report itself that call for an in-depth investigation,” added Gawande.
Khadse said he would not comment on the ACB report, as the matter was pending in court. “The ACB has submitted a closure report, which says there is no case against me. They have found no substance in the allegations. But, a clean chit can only be given by a court.’’
On cancelling of the minutes of the meeting, Khadse said, “The recorded minutes of the meeting were not cleared by me or issued in my name. They were scrapped after it came to light that a high court order was pending in the matter.”