Mumbai: Former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan on Wednesday earned a reprieve with the state governor K. Sankaranarayanan refusing to grant permission to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to prosecute him in the Adarsh housing scam.

According to Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), an investigating agency requires the governor’s permission to prosecute a minister appointed by him. An official in the governor’s secretariat, who did not want to be named, confirmed that Sankaranarayanan has rejected CBI’s request but refused to reveal reasons behind this decision.

CBI filed a chargesheet against Chavan and other accused in the case in July last year, but trial could not begin as its plea to grant permission to prosecute Chavan was pending with the governor.

The Maharashtra government last week told the Bombay high court that it would table the report of an inquiry panel, headed by retired Bombay high court justice J.A. Patil, in both the Houses of state legislature during the winter session. The Patil panel had submitted its report to the government in April.

Adarsh, a 31-storey building in the posh south Mumbai locality of Colaba, is meant for retired defence personnel and the family of Kargil war martyrs, but many political leaders and bureaucrats have been allotted houses in it. For instance, Chavan’s two close relatives were allotted flats in the housing society.

Incidentally, Devyani Khobragade, the Indian diplomat who is at the centre of diplomatic row between India and US, also has a flat in the Adarsh Housing Society.

A CBI spokesperson declined to comment on Sankaranarayanan’s decision.

“As far as CBI is concern we have hit the dead end. After constitutional head of the state (governor) declines permission to proscute someone, it can’t be challenged in the court of law," another CBI official said, requesting anonymity.

“We are exploring legal options to challenge governor’s decision in the supreme court," Vinod Tawde of the Bharatiya Janata Party and leader of the opposition in the legislative council, told reporters. “However, we will force state government to disclose reasons behind governor’s decision as governor can’t act suo moto. He acts only as per advice he receives from council of ministers."

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