MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court today came down heavily on the CBI for its failure to arrest any of the accused in the Adarsh Housing Society scam despite having evidence and directed it to take action without "fear or favour."
"Why have you (CBI) not arrested any of the accused yet? Are you feeling shy or are you just protecting the accused? If prima facie case is made out against anyone then action should be taken irrespective of who that person is.
Delay in such cases can be dangerous," a division bench of Justices P B Majmudar and R D Dhanuka said.
The court, after going through the progress report submitted by CBI, asked as to why no action had been taken in the form of arrest when the agency had found sufficient material against the accused.
"Take action without fear or favour. We agree that some of the accused persons are high-ranking politicians but by initiating action CBI should send out a message that any wrongdoer, irrespective of who he is, will be punished," Justice Majmudar said, adding it was unfortunate that even after having evidence CBI was not initiating action.
The court did not agree with the plea of CBI counsels K Sudhakar and Ejaz Khan that arrests had not been made as the investigation was at its fag end and a charge sheet would be filed in two months.
"Filing of charge sheet should not stop you (CBI) from arresting the accused. In several cases, CBI arrests the accused first and then files charge sheet. Why are you making an exception in this case?" Justice Majmudar asked.
The CBI counsels said the FIR in the case was filed on January 29 and 14 persons, including former chief minister Ashok Chavan were named as accused. They said complicity of two more persons had surfaced during the investigations and the charge sheet would include these too as accused.
The court was hearing a batch of public interest litigations filed by social activists Simpreet Singh and Pravin Wategaonkar seeking monitoring of the probe by the High Court and invoking provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the case.
The bench while adjourning the matter till March 22 warned the probe agency that it would summon CBI Director if "concrete steps" were not taken.
"We are giving you (CBI) last chance. If you don't take concrete steps we will summon the CBI Director from Delhi."
The court after going through the CBI report also wanted to know if government officials under the lens were still functioning in their posts. "Are those officers against whom you (CBI) are probing still in service in government offices? They should be suspended pending investigation," the bench said.
The court directed public prosecutor Pandurang Pol to issue a letter to the state Chief Secretary who would in turn send letters to the concerned departments where those officers were working.
"Take the names from CBI and issue letters to the concerned departments. There are provisions to suspend any government servant who is embroiled in a criminal case pending investigations," the court said, directing the state government to inform it on the next date of hearing what action had been taken against serving officers.
The court also asked the senior officials of CBI, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Income Tax (IT) to hold meetings for sharing information.
"In the interest of justice, investigations would progress more quickly if all the three agencies sit together and work. They share a common objective of bringing the culprits to justice," Justice Majmudar said.
Referring to the recent arrest of CBI counsel Mandar Goswami for allegedly accepting bribe from one of the prime accused in Adarsh scam, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, the court said, "We don't know whom to trust and (whom) not these days. But if we find that any CBI officer is showing favours to the accused then we will form a separate investigating team to probe the case."
Though Gidwani, a former MLC and one of the main promoters of the society, is under arrest, it for bribing the CBI lawyer for getting the charges against him diluted in the case and not for his alleged involvement in the scam.
The ED also submitted its report to the court in a sealed envelope. The agency had begun probe in the case after the court came down heavily on it for not initiating action.
Additional Solicitor General Darius Khambatta, appearing for ED, said the agency was probing whether any offence under PMLA was committed by any member of Adarsh society and if any flat was purchased through proceeds of that crime.