Adarsh scam: Politicos go scot-free, babus to face the music
After a rap from AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the state cabinet accepted the inquiry commission's report on the Adarsh scam and will initiate inquiries against the guilty bureaucrats; however, politicians were let off
The Congress-led state government obeyed AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s diktat on the Adarsh inquiry commission report, but with some political jugglery. The cabinet has decided to take action against all bureaucrats who have been named in the report submitted by the two-member inquiry commission set up to look into the matter.
The Maharashtra state had come under fire from Gandhi, who had categorically said that ‘there was no question of protecting anybody in relation to the Adarsh scam’. But, politicians seemed to have escaped punishment. First, the cabinet revised the action taken report (ATR) so much so that the initial report, which was merely four lines, was replaced by an exhaustive nine-page document.
The report has the state’s replies on all the 13 terms of references dealt by the inquiry commission headed by Justice (retd) J A Patil. But, more important is the fact that the document has no mention of punishing politicians who were involved in the Adarsh co-operative society case. Following directives from the party high command, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan released the nine-page ATR to the media, so that people know of all the details. The CM also addressed a press conference yesterday, which he rarely does after cabinet meetings.
But, the whole exercise turned out to be a big fiasco as the Congress-NCP government was united on letting political bigwigs go scot-free. “There is no question of taking action against politicians, as the commission has not concluded that they had committed any criminal offence,” was the CM’s response.
The commission has termed the involvement of political personalities, including three Congress ex CMs the late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde, Ashok Chavan and Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar, and two NCP ministers Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope - as ‘political patronage’.
“Since Tatkare and Tope did not deal with any files, there was no need of any action,” Chavan said, offering a clean chit to his NCP colleagues. On the contrary, his government came down harshly on bureaucrats, announcing that those found guilty in the inquiry report would face departmental enquiries (DE) for a breach of service rules.
When asked about ex-CM Ashok Chavan, who is the only politician included by the commission in the list of those who are guilty of quid pro quo, the CM referred to a Supreme Court judgment, which says there cannot be two FIRs for one offence. “Since the CBI had already registered an FIR against him, there is no need for separate proceedings,” he said. Due to the same reason, action will not be initiated against 13 other officials.
The state has indirectly obliged the former CM, fully knowing that the Governor has rejected CBI’s application for a permission to prosecute him. “We are not supposed to take any stand on this issue, as the CBI has not sought our permission,” said the CM. Of the 102 members, 25 whose membership of the society has been found as ineligible will also face action.
“The government will cancel their membership, along with that of 22 other members whose transactions of flats have been termed as benami. These 22 members will face CBI action under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act,” the CM told reporters. The ineligible members include senior NCP leader and former assembly speaker Babasaheb Kupekar, former Shiv Sena MP and minister Suresh Prabhu, three relatives of former CM Ashok Chavan, and former Indian consul general in New York Devyani Khobragade.
CBI action against 22 ineligible members
22 members will face CBI action under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act. The ineligible members include senior NCP leader and former assembly speaker Babasaheb Kupekar, former Shiv Sena MP and minister Suresh Prabhu, three relatives of former CM Ashok Chavan, and former Indian consul general in New York Devyani Khobragade (in pic).
Justice Patil says
Justice (retd) J A Patil, who headed the commission, when asked about the punitive action being taken, said, “They (cabinet) have cited some rulings of the SC about FIR registration, so I won’t comment on the matter. As far as officers are concerned, if service rules are flouted, suitable action will follow. I won’t comment on whether any action should be taken or not. They have the option of filing Action Taken Report and should decide accordingly.” When asked about whether he was satisfied with the Maharashtra cabinet’s decision, he said, “It’s not a question of my satisfaction. You should ask whether people are satisfied with it.”
Opposition parties in the state, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, termed the review as eyewash and threatened to move court in the matter. Leader of Opposition in the legislative assembly Eknath Khadse termed the decision “a total eyewash” and an attempt to fool the people of the state. “The Rs 7 crore spent from the state kitty on the two-member inquiry panel has been wasted,” Khadse said. Leader of Opposition in the legislative council Vinod Tawde termed the decision as a drama and wants the demolition of the society building. He also demanded that the government convene a special session of the legislature to discuss the report.
Inputs by Salil Urankar