“It becomes highly expedient for the sake of transparency and probity, that not only the accused, but also the ACB officers who are allegedly involved in such nepotistic acts (should) be made accountable,” said Special Judge V A Daulatabadkar
On Saturday, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) court rebuked ACB for filing the closure report in the Rs45,000 crore Powai land scam case, without producing the investigation report. Property tycoon Niranjan Hiranandani, co-founder of Hiranandani Group, along with several other bureaucrats was accused in the scam. “Before closing the scam, the court will go through the investigation report and the issue will come up for hearing on Februray 15”, said Special Judge V A Daulatabadkar.
A few days back due to unavailability of proper evidence against the accused, ACB had filed the closure report. RTI activist Santosh Daundkar filed petition before the court seeking the investigation report.
According to DNA the application which Daundkar, filed before the special ACB court, presided by Daulatabadkar reads, “It is overwhelmingly apparent that the closure of the case has been done for highly nepotistic considerations. Pursuant to such detrimental resolves, formidable evidence linked to the case was not collected at all (by the investigating agency)… in such a mammoth corruption case, the ACB says there is no evidence, when the evidence is in heaps. Hence for this reason, it becomes highly expedient for the sake of transparency and probity, that not only the accused, but also the ACB officers who are allegedly involved in such nepotistic acts (should) be made accountable.”
He also mentioned that in 1986, when the scam came into notice, the state government had given the land to Hiranandani builders on 80 years lease for building houses for the poor. The agreement stated that the houses were not supposed to be exceeding 860 sq. ft. but the builder constructed the houses measuring 1,000 sq. ft. These luxurious houses were sold to the rich people.
In November 2013, extension was granted by Bombay High Court to ACB to finish the investigation and submit the report. On August 26 of the same year, ACB’s Additional Superintendent Vijay Bhoite had assured the court that investigations into the case would be completed within eight weeks and a final report would be submitted before the special court. On the basis of this statement, Benjamin withdrew the petition. However, on October 25 the court was informed that the probe was still on and further time would be required.
Earlier, in July 2012, it was reported that Daulatabadkar had asked ACB to file FIR under the Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) on the direction of the court which found prima facie material in the complaint that needs to be investigated. "As the investigation of this case would unfold, what may be witnessed could be the largest and the biggest land scam of modern India, where several politicians and bureaucrats were bribed as this fraud and game of corruption went on openly in the last 20 years. It is suspected that hundreds of flats were doled out as bribes to many politicians and bureaucrats to facilitate the fraud. Time will indeed unravel the truth if the investigation goes on honestly, efficiently and on the desired lines”, said former IPS officer and lawyer YP Singh, who was fighting the case on behalf of Daundkar.
Later in September of the same year, Bombay High Court had lifted the stay on investigation into the matter after the FIR named Hiranandani and Thomas Benjamin, who was then additional chief secretary of state public health department.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) approved the scheme “Powai Area Development Scheme”, in 1977 to develop the 344 acres land. This led to the enforcement of Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976, to implement the building of mass houses scheme. In 2009, it was founded that a few terms and conditions of the contract have been violated by the builders. MMRDA alleged that Hiranandani had used only 15% of the land for LIH, amalgamating a majority of the flats into big ones and selling them to rich clients. After claiming Rs1,993 crore in damages in 2009, it revised the amount to Rs89.75 crore
But the state arbitrator gave Hiranandani a clean chit although he said the builder must forgo the Rs3 crore he had paid MMRDA for ‘No mention of Powai flaws when giving nod.’ A state government appointed arbitrator in the Powai land case involving the Hiranandani Group has ruled that the authorities failed to detect any irregularities for over 20 years and the case was ‘barred by the law of limitation.’ The developer will however forfeit Rs3 crore he paid MMRDA in 2008 to continue construction.
After a tripartite agreement was signed in 1986 by the land owners at Powai, the state government and the MMRDA for the Powai residential township, the developer, Niranjan Hiranandani, has built 70 buildings since 1989. One of the MMRDA’s allegations was that the builder amalgamated smaller flats meant for public housing and sold them as one large unit to high-end clients.