Ashok Chavan must face trial

The sanction given by Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao for prosecution of Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh housing society scandal will hopefully lead to a judicial scrutiny of former state chief minister’s role in the scandal. Chavan and other politicians, who were allegedly involved in the case, have not faced any legal proceedings till now. State’s previous Congress-NCP government rejected that part of a judicial inquiry report which indicted many politicians including Chavan. Former state governor K Sankaranara-yanan had refused sanction for Chavan’s prosecution. The CBI, which investigated the case, had proposed to prosecute him because there was strong evidence of wrongdoing on his part. He was accused of granting additional building rights to the society in return for  the allotment of two flats for his kin. Though the CBI sought deletion of his name from the charge-sheet after the governor’s refusal, the court did not agree with this.

Chavan is certain to challenge the sanction for prosecution on the argument that such sanction cannot be given a second time after it was refused once. But this may not carry much weight. The state government has cited new facts about Chavan’s involvement in the case, derived from the judicial commission’s report, as sufficient ground for prosecution. Convincing grounds had existed even earlier but Sankaranarayanan took a wrong decision on the basis of the advice of the Congress government under Prithviraj Chavan. The Adarsh scandal is a major corruption case of recent times. The CBI investigation and the judicial enquiry have clearly pointed to wrongdoing on the part of the politicians and bureaucrats. But the political establishment tried to shield itself and the bureaucrats from prosecution and other consequences.  Chavan is now president of the state unit of the Congress. The party’ central leadership should ensure that he does not dodge the legal process.

The CBI had sought Chavan’s prosecution for criminal conspiracy and cheating. It had provided detailed evidence to support its charges. There was even a view that sanction was not necessary as Chavan was not a public servant at the time it was sought. But the governor still refused the sanction. In any case, the CBI court has since said that even after the rejection of sanction, Chavan could be prosecuted under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The high court has upheld this view. This is also in line with a Supreme Court judgment which said prior sanction is not needed for prosecution of public servants for such offences involving fraud, conspiracy and corruption. Chavan and others, including three other former chief ministers and top officials, should be made to face the law.

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