Nagpur: State Congress president and former chief minister Ashok Chavan seems headed for more trouble as Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Friday censured him for misusing powers as CM while regularizing encroachment by Jawaharlal Darda Education Society, controlled by MP Vijay Darda and his brother and former state education minister Rajendra Darda in Yavatmal.
Passing strictures on eight applicants, including the former CM, Darda and his other family members including Devendra (MP Vijay’s son), Rishi (Rajendra’s son), younger brother Kishor along with Prakash Chopda, Kirti Gandhi and Vilas Deshpande, the court imposed a cost of Rs25,000 on each of them to be paid to the district collector within four weeks.
While dismissing their criminal applications, a division bench of justices Arun Chaudhari and Pradeep Deshmukh directed the Maharashtra government to appoint a high level officer within a month to investigate the matter within four months and submit the report.
“The tell-tale established facts from documents (obtained from government) depict appalling and sordid state of affairs in state when government and then chief minister (Chavan) found fun and enjoyment in tormenting common people – the 200 plot holders – in their own right. These persons purchased plots with their hard earned money without any aid or assistance from the government or allotment of any government land,” the judges observed before rejecting petitioners’ prayer for delaying the verdict so that they could move the Supreme Court.
The judges came down heavily on former CM Chavan stating that with full government powers at his disposal, he annihilated right and enjoyment of already disillusioned and despondent lower middle class plot holders with despotic and inexpiable directions to regularize constructions in their private compound putting them in doom and gloom. “The obvious reason was his association with Rajendra Darda and Member of Parliament (Vijay Darda) being trustees of the society. This is nothing but ‘a state of oligarchy’,” the judges added.
They added that thorough, honest, uninfluenced and deep investigations are required, since it was delayed for over four years as applicants are “highly influential” persons. “The applicants have procrastinated investigations for all these years without any justification. God only knows when the entire encroachment will be removed to give respite to these common people. Hence order for costs and early investigations are also needed,” they said.
The judges observed they were dejected by the fact that despite Supreme court imposing Rs10 lakh cost on government for similar ‘abuse of power’ by then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh in 2011, his successor – Ashok Chavan -followed the same path. “The society didn’t have semblance of any right and so also collector, government and then CM to intrude in private sanctioned layout. The intrusion was made by the trust by barging into open spaces belonging to 200 plot owners,” the court stated.
Chavan and Dardas had moved the court to quash FIR lodged against them by RTI activist Digambar Pajgade in Wadgaon Police Station in Yavatmal alleging that two plots – 76,172 sq feet and 59,000 sq feet – meant for open space in Darda Nagar Society in Yavatmal were illegally occupied by Jawaharlal Darda Education Society in connivance the Wadgaon Gram Panchayat officials, under the family’s influence.
The complaint was later registered as regular criminal case before chief judicial magistrate (CJM) in Yavatmal where 18 accused were named along with applicants. CJM had rejected issuance of direction under CrPC to Joseph Imanuli and former CM Prithviraj Chavan but directed investigations against others.
Pajgade claimed that Dardas who are directors of Jawaharlal Darda Society allegedly grabbed the open space by misusing their influential positions and constructed a three-storey building for their private English medium school.