Maha Sadan scam: Chhagan Bhujbal, kin discharged due to ‘lack of evidence

Mumbai:- Spelling a huge relief for embattled Maharashtra Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, he, his son Pankaj and nephew Sameer, and five others were on Thursday discharged by a special court for “lack of evidence” in the alleged corruption cases pertaining to the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi and other projects.

Special Judge H.S. Satbhai, in his July order, has also discharged former PWD engineer Arun Devdhar, construction firm K.S. Chamankar Ent officials Prasanna Chamankar, Krishna Chamankar, Praveena Chamankar and Praneeta Chamankar, in the case filed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

The ACB case related to the 2005 deal entered with the firm K.S. Chamankar Ent, without calling for tenders when Chhagan Bhujbal was the PWD Minister in the then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance Democratic Front government in the state.

Contending that there was “no evidence” to prosecute them, the Bhujbals had sought discharge, terming all the allegations levelled against them in the ACB case as “fake, based on wrong calculations and assumptions”.

The court order said that undue haste was made in lodging the FIR against the accused, and the ACB’s calculations of the alleged profits made by the contractor or the implied losses accrued to the state government without taking the help of an expert was illegal and improper.

It further noted that from the documents submitted, it seemed that most of the calculations were made by the informant and Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACB, Narendra Talegaonkar, who was neither an engineer, an architect, or an expert.

The special judge said that there is no evidence that the contractor had paid the bribe of Rs 13.50 crore to the Bhujbals, their staffers or their family members named as accused in the case.

The contractor was granted the redevelopment rights on a slum pocket at the prime location of RTO in Andheri west on the condition that the company would construct the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi, the RTO Building in Mumbai, and a government guesthouse in south Mumbai.

The Bhujbals’ lawyers Prasad Dhakephalkar, Sajal Yadava and Sudarshan Khawase argued that despite the voluminous chargesheet running into over 11,000 pages filed against them by the ACB in 2019, there is not sufficient evidence to continue with the trial against them.

Opposing their plea in the court, the ACB contended that the Bhujbals and others had received kickbacks from the firm in the project to build the Maharashtra Sadan state guesthouse in New Delhi.

Against the government circular of giving 20 percent to contractors, the ACB said the company had allegedly earned 80 percent profits in the New Delhi construction project.

While the original cost for building the guesthouse was reportedly Rs 13.50 crore, it was later hiked to Rs 50 crore.

The ACB claimed that the Bhujbals got Rs 13.50 crore as kickbacks from the contractor who allegedly earned a total profit of around Rs 190 crore from these PWD projects.