Land grab probe: Khadse says Zoting Commission jumping its brief

Eknath Khadse
Former Revenue Minister and state BJP stalwart Eknath Khadse on Monday questioned the very jurisdiction of Dinkar Zoting Commission inquiring into allegations of illegal transfer of MIDC land at Bhosari in Pune district in the name of his wife and son-in-law. Khadse said the commission is jumping its brief decided by State Government.

Khadse appeared before the Zoting Commission on Monday and strongly objected to some of the issues raised by the probing panel. The next hearing will be held tomorrow (February 28). The former minister reached here on Monday morning and spent over two hours at the Ravi Bhavan office of the Dinkar Zoting Commission. The probe is going on since the past 8 months.

Khadse is accused of conflict of interests while facilitating transfer of the said MIDC land to his wife Mandakini and son-in-law Girish Chaudhari. The Commission has so for investigated revenue aspect of the concerned land and the documents submitted by MIDC. Similarly, MIDC has recorded its statements and submitted some evidences.

In his deposition before the Zoting Commission, Khadse is reported to have claimed he was totally unaware of the land transaction. This claim amounted to reversing of his earlier stand that the said land was not government property but purchased from a private owner, the lawyer of MIDC Adv Chandrashekhar Jaltare, who cross examined Khadse, said.

During today’s hearing, the Zoting Commission bombarded Khadse with lot of questions. However, instead of answering the questions, Khadse chose to avoid them, said sources. Khadse reportedly submitted a fresh memorandum to the panel raising his objections to many issues. He even said that the Commission is jumping the brief decided by State Government at the time of setting up the Zoting Commission.

The next hearing is scheduled to be held on Tuesday. This hearing could be final one and thereafter the commission could prepare its report and submit it to the State Government.

Khadse had resigned from the government on June 4 last year following the probe ordered by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The former minister was accused of conflict of interests while facilitating transfer of the said MIDC land to his relatives. The opposition accused him of misuse of office as minister as the said land’s market price was in range of Rs 40 crore.

Khadse was cross-examined by MIDC counsel Chandrashekhar Jaltare who asked him the reason for resigning from minister post on June 4 when he was not aware of the deal on that date. The ex-minister maintained that it was a political conspiracy against him and that he had done nothing wrong. He also claimed that as Revenue Minister, he had no control on MIDC land so there was no question of conflict of interest.

Judge (retd) Zoting also posed a couple of probing questions. He is likely to ask a few more on February 28, the next date of hearing. Zoting Commission was initially asked to complete probe in three months but its term had to be extended thrice as it could not complete the work and prepare its report.