ACB to probe land-scam charges against former Maharashtra BJP Minister
Mumbai, March 8 (IANS) In a major embarrassment for the ruling BJP, the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that it will probe charges pertaining to a Pune land deal against its senior leader and former minister Eknath Khadse and his family.
Khadse, the de facto No 2 in the state cabinet after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, was forced to resign on June 4, 2016 following charges of corruption and alleged links with absconder mafia don Dawood Ibrahim.
During the course of hearing on a PIL filed by anti-corruption activist Hemant Gavande, a division bench of Justice R. V. More and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere, government counsel Nitin Pradhan informed the court about the proposed ACB investigation.
“The investigations into the case against Khadse and his family will be transferred to the ACB. An FIR would be launched against the accused persons,” he said.
Pradhan added that the case filed by the Pune police would be transferred to the ACB which probes cases related to the Prevention of Corruption Act and the court directed that it should be supervised by an officer not below the rank of an Additional Director General of Police, ACB.
“The ACB should carry out the probe expeditiously and independently. It should not let the previous findings of the Pune police and the judicial commission affect its investigations,” the court said.
At an earlier hearing, the court had expressed displeasure over the manner in which the investigations were conducted and said that if the government was unwilling to transfer the case to the ACB, it would pass appropriate orders.
According to Gavande’s PIL, during his tenure as Revenue Minister, Khadse had purchased a prime three-acre plot of land at Bhosari in Pune owned by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation in the name of his relatives.
He reportedly paid Rs3.75 crore for the plot worth around Rs 40 crore at market rates and registered it in the name of his wife and son-in-law. But Khadse stoutly denied all allegations.
Following an uproar and agitation by the former Aam Aadmi Party activist Anjali Damania, Fadnavis had later appointed a judicial probe headed by retired Bombay HC judge, Justice Dinkar Zoting.
The high court has placed the matter for further hearing on April 3 and directed the ACB to inform it of the progress into the investigations then.