Adarsh housing scam: Bombay HC pulls up CBI for silence on ‘benami’ flats

Mumbai: Expressing dissatisfaction with the report submitted by CBI in connection with its probe into benami flats in the scam-tainted Adarsh building, the Bombay High Court today said the document was silent on the points specifically raised by the court during the last hearing.

A division bench of Justices A S Oka and A A Sayed was hearing a public interest litigation by activist Pravin Wategaonkar alleging that senior bureaucrats and politicians held ‘benami’ (proxy) flats in the Adarsh building, which was a quid-pro-quo for clearing files related to the society in violation of several norms.

The court had on September 2 this year refused to accept a report submitted by CBI and had said the agency has not applied its mind in respect to issues raised in the PIL.

It had then directed the agency to submit another report and also ordered CBI Western Region’s Joint Director to remain present in court today (September 28).

While the Joint Director was not present today, the agency’s DIG was present and he submitted a second report.
The bench after perusing the report said it was not satisfied.

“We are not satisfied with this report. It is silent on very specific queries raised by us and the petition on the last hearing,” Justice Oka said.

“We had also asked the Joint Director to remain present today. We expect him to appear before us on the next date of hearing. We also want the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) to appear in the case next time,” the court directed and posted the petition for further hearing on October 5.

Wategaonkar has sought disclosure of names of two top officers of the Maharashtra government who had dealt with Adarsh files and allegedly obtained benami flats.

He claimed that when CBI arrested one of the promoters of Adarsh society, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani in 2011, it “claimed in the remand papers that they needed Gidwani’s custody because he held benami flats for political leaders.”
Gidwani, a Congress leader, and his family members owned a total of 10 flats in Adarsh. His sons owned three flats while in respect of other flats, the source of money and real ownership was not clear, the PIL has said.

It has alleged that two of these flats were meant for high-profile members of the government who helped clear the Adarsh files, and two others for prominent politicians. Gidwani passed away in 2012.

The 31-storey building was originally meant for Kargil war widows, but many of the flats were allotted illegally to bureaucrats and politicians.

The building also allegedly violated coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms and civic rules.

The high court this year on April 29 had ordered demolition of the building and sought criminal proceedings against the politicians and bureaucrats for “misuse” of power, holding that the high-rise was illegally constructed.

The Supreme Court had subsequently stayed the demolition order and asked the Centre to secure the building and take its possession.