Bhosari land deal by BJP leader Eknath Khadse’s family is legal, says ACB report

Reports say the three-acre plot in Pune was not owned by the state government.

mumbai Updated: Jun 30, 2018 13:16 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra,BJP leader Eknath Khadse
Former revenue minister Eknath Khadse and his family get a clean chit from the ACB.(HT File Photo)

The investigation closure report of the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) has not only given former revenue minister Eknath Khadse clean chit in the allegations of graft and conflict of interest, but also termed his family’s purchase of a three-acre plot in Bhosari near Pune legal.

The report, submitted before the special court in Pune in April, rejected the claim that the industries department owned the plot, pointing out that the land acquisition process wasn’t completed. It also rapped the government – both industries and revenue department - for not restricting or imposing conditions on further transfer and sale of the land.

HT had last week reported that the ACB Pune report gave a clean chit to the former minister in the Bhosari land deal, saying there was no evidence that the latter was aware that his wife, Mandakini, and son-in-law, Girish Choudhary, had purchased the plot. “Even though the controversial plot was earmarked for government use, as per directives issued under section 32 (1) of the MIDC Act, due to procedural lapses in implementing the law, the owner was not given any compensation for it and final award of the land was also not granted. The 7/12 (property title record) document continues to have Abbas Ukani’s name as the land owner,” stated the report. “There are no files or records with the government that show that the sale of the land was restricted or required a prior no-objection ... The deal cannot be termed illegal.”

The controversy pertains to the purchase of a plot in Bhosari, near Pune, by Khadse’s kin for ₹3.75 crore, against the prevalent market rate of ₹30 crore. The plot’s ownership was contentious as the industries department acquired it in 1971, but the final award of the plot was not granted and the owner had not been compensated for it.

A Pune-based businessman, Hemant Gawande, had filed a police complaint against the ex-minister, alleging misuse of ministerial position to facilitate the purchase of a plot, which was acquired by the government, by his family. Following the allegations, Khadse was forced to step down as a minister in June 2016.

In a rap to the bureaucracy, the investigation report observed that by 2010 (after the land owner made several petitions to the government for compensation), it was clear to both the industries and revenue department that the land acquisition process had not been completed. “Due diligence was not followed though importance of making an official observation restricting transfer of sale of this plot on joint records was clear,” stated the report.

The other charges against Khadse and his kin, including causing loss of exchequer to the government and undervaluation of land, have been ruled out by the ACB. The report is a shot in the arm for the former minister and senior BJP leader ahead of an election year. But it remains to be seen if the investigation report can hold its ground in the court in the face of protest petitions by activists Anjali Damania and Gawande challenging it.

First Published: Jun 30, 2018 11:00 IST