After 2G, it is Ashok Chavan who is off the hook

After the surprise acquittal of all 17 accused in the 2G allocation scam case, the Congress party has got another shot in the arm with its former chief minister and current State party president Ashok Chavan being let off the hook in Mumbai’s Adarsh housing scam case. The Bombay High Court has averred that the prosecuting agency the CBI had failed to present fresh evidence against Chavan while seeking to prosecute him in the case.

Yet again, as in the 2G case, the blame has come on the CBI which should make the Narendra Modi government sit up and take notice. Considering that the then Maharashtra Governor, C. Vidyasagar Rao, had granted the sanction for prosecuting Chavan it is as much a blow to the office of Governor as to the CBI and its political masters the Central government. Union Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad will have some answering to do as to how the CBI is being run and whether it is failing to do its duty appropriately.

The charges against Ashok Chavan were under various sections of the IPC related to criminal conspiracy and cheating, besides provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Chavan had challenged the Governor’s order in the High Court, calling it “arbitrary, illegal and unjust” and passed with “malafide intentions.” The two-judge bench said the material presented by the CBI before then Governor Rao could not be converted into credible fresh evidence against the accused. “The sanctioning authority is an independent body that can’t allow itself to be influenced by anyone’s opinion,” the court said.

The CBI had accused Chavan of approving additional floor space index (FSI) for the Adarsh society in posh South Mumbai, and accepting two flats for his relatives in return when he was the Chief Minister. He was also accused of illegally approving, as Revenue Minister earlier, allotment of 40 per cent of flats to civilians even though the society was originally meant for defense personnel. The CBI had earlier told the HC that if Chavan’s petition is allowed, it would amount to his acquittal, which would render the entire probe exercise futile. By that token, the whole Adarsh housing scam is precariously perched. Surely, all is not well for the CBI whose credibility is bound to suffer on account of the failure in two high profile cases. That these cases, apart from a couple of others, had given the Congress party the taint of being a party steeped in corruption is undeniable. In both cases the CBI needs to resort to damage control on a war footing.

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