The much-hyped ‘clean chit’ to Congress leader Ashok Chavan is particularly embarrassing as the party had been forced to sack him after the Adarsh scam surfaced, says Anita Katyal
Congress leader Ashok Chavan has probably assumed that he is in the clear after the state government recently rejected the report of the Adarsh Commission, which had reportedly indicted the former chief minister for granting undue favours to builders of the controversial housing society.
The commission had been appointed to probe the truth behind the swanky but scam-riddled building allegedly built on land meant for the widows of martyrs of the Kargil War after flouting numerous laws.
But Chavan should not be too relieved; the case against him can still be pursued by the court on the basis of the inquiry commission's observations.
The commission, headed by retired high court judge J A Patil, has noted that Chavan gave permission for the construction of the housing society as a quid pro quo for two flats allotted to his relatives.
The usage of the term quid pro quo in the report is being interpreted as a clear indictment of the former CM under the Anti-Corruption Act as it establishes that Chavan had gone out of his way to favour the Adarsh Housing Society in return for certain favours.
The scam could continue to haunt the party as the court can take suo moto notice of the commission’s report, fear senior Congress leaders.
Something similar had happened after Maharasthra Governor K Sankaranarayanan had refused to allow the Central Bureau of Investigation to prosecute Chavan in connection to the Adarsh Housing Society scam.
Ketan Tirodkar, a former journalist, has filed an application in the Bombay high court against the governor's order. He had cited an order by the Supreme Court to argue that the CBI does not require sanction to prosecute government officials in cases monitored by the judiciary.
“The Supreme Court ruled that there is no requirement of sanction for the CBI under section 6-A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act to prosecute government servants in cases that are being monitored by the judiciary,” the application said.
While this application is pending in the court, the contents of the inquiry commission’s report could form the basis of another case against Chavan.
If the judiciary finds merit in these cases, it will show both the Maharashtra government as well as the governor in a poor light.
"It will prove how the political class has joined hands to protect one of their own," a senior Congress leader told Rediff.com.
The much-hyped ‘clean chit’ to Chavan is particularly embarrassing for the Congress as the party had been forced to sack him after the Adarsh scam surfaced.
The Congress has since touted its decision to remove Chavan as an example of its steely resolve to combat corruption and punish the corrupt.
This issue will also cast a shadow over the impending meeting of chief ministers of Congress-ruled states -- with Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Friday -- to discuss the implementation of the Lokpal Bill and the Lokayukata Bill. The Congress vice-president had even claimed ownership of the anti-graft law and publicly declared that the party was committed towards fighting corruption.
The Maharashtra Cabinet has already held a meeting to reject the Adarsh Commission’s report. The cabinet, comprising ministers of both the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party ministers, unanimously decided that the report had to be rejected.
Faced with his vehement colleagues, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had no option but to go along with the stance of the majority of his ministers. The Bharatiya Janata Party, meanwhile, has lost no time in launching a scathing attack against Rahul Gandhi.
The party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi openly mocked the Congress vice-president at his recent rally in Mumbai.
"I was listening to a top Congress leader speak against corruption. Look at his audacity. They are so deep in corruption and still he presents himself with an innocent face. On the one hand, they reject the Adarsh report, and on the other, they lecture on freeing India of corruption and take credit for the Lokpal Bill," he said.
Besides Chavan, the report has also named three other former chief ministers -- Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar -- for extending political patronage to the housing society.
Two NCP ministers -- Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope -- have been held responsible for misusing their political positions to promote this housing project.
In addition, 12 bureaucrats have been found guilty of violating Conduct of Service rules.
Image: Former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi