Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bombay HC rejects CBI plea to drop Ashok Chavan's name as accused in Adarsh case

In a major setback to former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, the Bombay high court on Wednesday rejected a plea by the prosecuting agency CBI to drop him as an accused in the Adarsh housing society case. 

Justice M L Tahaliyani pronounced the verdict via video conference from the Nagpur bench of the high court where he is now presiding. The judge, however, stayed the order for four weeks to enable an appeal. 
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had moved the HC after the special trial court judge declined a similar plea earlier. 

Justice Tahaliyani while pronouncing the judgment did not give details or the reasoning. The detailed text of the ruling would be available later. Chavan, a Congress MP now, had stepped down as the CM late 2010 after the Adarsh controversy erupted in the media. 

The CBI plea is based on the Maharashtra governor's refusal last December to grant sanction to prosecute Chavan for criminal conspiracy and cheating among other offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Since there is no evidence of conspiracy against Chavan, there remains no basis for the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act that he was also charged with, said the CBI counsel Hiten Venegaonkar. The HC seemed satisfied with the counsel's submission that no prior sanction is required for the corruption charges since Chavan was not an MLA or a public servant when the case was registered against him in 2011. 

The judge heard the CBI and Chavan's counsel Amit Desai on the procedural law under which the plea was filed and appropriateness of provisions under which it is filed. 

The CBI had informed the judge that section 321 of the criminal procedure code which deals with the prosecutor's power to withdraw an accused from prosecution with permission of the court at any time before the final judgment, is not applicable in this case since the trial court had yet to take cognizance of the chargesheet. Desai concurred and the judge had said he would record this statement.

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