Pune land controversy back to haunt Shiv Sena
An old land controversy has come back to haunt the Shiv Sena just months before elections to municipal corporations in many major cities in Maharashtra.
Almost 12 years after senior Sena leader Manohar Joshi had to step down as chief minister when the controversy broke out in Pune, the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to expunge strictures passed against him by the Bombay high court. The verdict comes at the wrong time for the Shiv Sena, as the party was hoping to make corruption and land scams a poll plank in the upcoming elections.
The case pertains to a 30,000 square feet prime plot in Pune’s Prabhat Road, reserved for a school, which was dereserved to favour a company owned by Joshi’s son-in-law Girish Vyas, for constructing a housing complex. It snowballed into a major political issue in 1998. Joshi was asked to step down by the Sena leadership after a petition was filed in the high court against Vyas.
Significantly, Joshi resigned in January 1999 and the high court delivered its verdict in March 1999, terming the
housing complex, ‘Sundew’, illegal. It also passed strictures against Joshi. Vyas then challenged the order in the apex court.
The SC bench headed by justice RV Raveendran, however, set aside the order for conducting criminal investigation against Joshi. It asked the former chief minister to pay Rs25,000 to the petitioners who had filed a PIL in the high court challenging the transfer of the land.
The petitioners were Pune corporator Nitin Jagtap and journalist Vijay Kumbhar. On Wednesday, Kumbhar said: “This is a good decision after a long battle. The role of the Pune Municipal Corporation and the state government were suspicious from the outset. This is a slap for arrogant political parties who violate laws for their advantage instead of protecting it.”