ACB files FIR against BJP’s Eknath Khadse
Former revenue minister and senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse seems to be in trouble. The anti-corruption bureau (ACB) on Monday registered an FIR against him, his wife Mandatai and son-in-law Girish Chaudhari in connection with the alleged purchase of MIDC land in Bhosari near Pune.
The ACB action comes a day before the hearing of a writ petition before the Bombay high court. In the last hearing in March, the high court ordered the ACB to register an FIR and submit an investigation report. The ACB is now expected to submit the FIR in high court on Tuesday.
Khadse had to step down as revenue minister in June last following serious charges against him and his kin. The Fadnavis government has appointed a committee to probe into the land transaction. Khadse had refuted all charges calling it a ‘political conspiracy’.
The police refused to divulge any information on the ground that registration of the complaint was in progress. Sources, however, said various offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act are being registered against Khadse, his wife, son-in law and a few unidentified people. The ACB plans to register the FIR under sections 13 (1), (2) and 15 of Prevention of Corruption Act and also section 109 of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The original complaint was filed by Hemant Gawande in May 2016. Gawande had alleged in the complaint that Khadse misused his position as minister to purchase more than one hectare land in survey no 52 in Bhosari industrial estate. Gawande further alleged that Khadse, who was then revenue minister, had called a meeting of revenue officials in his office at Mantralaya, after which land was purchased in 15 days by his wife, son-in-law and others. Gawande stated in the complaint that the market price of the land was Rs31 crore, which was purchased for 3.75 core by Khadse’s relatives. The complaint also said the said land was supposed to be acquired by the government and the possible compensation was around Rs80 crore. “Mere intention to purchase land was to get additional financial returns,” Gawande alleged.
Gawnde approached the Bombay high court when the police did not initiate action on his complaint. The police even told the high court that there was no prima-facie evidence in the case. The court did not agree with the police. It passed some strictures against the police and ordered an FIR and file investigation report.
Significantly, a one-member probe committee appointed by the government under retired justice DB Zoting to probe the allegations against Khadse, has completed its probe after several extensions and the report is expected to be submitted in the next few days. The committee was accorded extra powers, by issuing a notification, under the Commission of Inquiry Act.
Khadse has been claiming the land does not belong to the MIDC because it failed to follow a government order issued in 1995 making it mandatory to complete the acquisition in three years. Khadse, by raising this contention in the legislative assembly last week, had sought the clarification from the government.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, while replying to a question in the Assembly last week, did not come clear on the 1995 order and had said the law and judiciary department will be asked to clarify on it. Fadnavis, however, had said the Zoting committee report will soon be submitted to the government.
Gavande demanded a probe into Khadse’s intention to purchase the land, which was acquired by MIDC 30 years back. He also wanted an inquiry into the Khadse’s sources of income for the purchase.