Adarsh scam: Bombay High Court orders deep probe into ‘benami’ flats
Mumbai, Oct 5: Expressing dissatisfaction with a Central Bureau of Investigation report on its probe into ‘benami’ flats in the controversial Adarsh Society, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the agency to probe it further.
After going through the CBI report, a division bench comprising Justice A.S. Oka and Justice A.A. Sayed said it was “not satisfied” and asked the agency to probe the matter further and file its report by December 16.
Earlier on September 2, when CBI submitted its report, the court refused to accept it saying that the agency had not applied its mind with respect to several issues raised in a public interest litigation against the society.
Activist Pravin Wategaonkar, who had filed the PIL, alleged that senior bureaucrats and politicians owned ‘benami’ flats in the Adarsh Soceity as a ‘quid pro quo’ for clearing files of the society in violation of norms.
He had even demanded that the Maharashtra government reveal the names of two top officials who had dealt with the Adarsh Society files at the relevant period and allegedly were allotted ‘benami’ flats.
Wategaonkar pointed out that during the initial stages of the probe, the CBI had arrested one of the promoters of the society in 2011, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, and sought his custody as he held ‘benami’ flats for two politicians.
Gidwani and his family owned a total of 10 flats in the society and the sources of funding or their real ownership was still unclear, the PIL said.
One of the prime accused in the scam, Gidwani died of a heart attack in November 2012.
In his PIL, Wategaonkar said the CBI has not named the two politicians owning two each of these ‘benami’ flats either in the chargesheet or anywhere else during the probe.
He sought the court’s direction to the CBI to either produce any documents or police reports, or carry out an independent probe on these missing names.
The court had directed the CBI to probe the matter of ‘benami’ flats further and submit a fresh report on this particular aspect by December 16.
The Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam was first unearthed in November 2010 and involved grabbing of flats cheap in the upmarket Colaba area which were meant to house Kargil war heroes and war widows.
Originally intended to be a six-storied building, it was subsequently converted into a 100-metres tall, 31-storied structure with politicians, bureaucrats and army officers who allegedly conspired among themselves to get the cheap flats.
Last April, the Bombay High Court had ordered the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to demolish the building – which is unoccupied since the scam broke out – and initiate criminal proceedings against the accused.
Later in July, the Supreme Court stayed the BHC order and directed the Centre to take possession of the building.