The Bombay high court on Tuesday ordered a CBI probe into the Pune land scam and asked it to register a case against BJP leader Raj Purohit, a former minister of state for urban development. The alleged scam is currently being probed by CID. The case goes back to 2008, when BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari filed a public interest litigation (PIL), alleging that between 1976 and 2005, 11,894 returns (statements of property extracts and details of people interested in a land) were filed under the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act (ULCA) in the Pune urban agglomeration. Alleged bogus orders were passed by government officials to exempt land in Pune from being acquired by the state under the now-repealed Act. Earlier under ULCA, an individual could possess only 500 sq-m plot. The excess area had to be declared as surplus and that could be acquired by the state to house the poor. Bhandari alleged that in Pune, hundreds of orders were fabricated to show that the extra land was “not surplus” and that exempted certain owners from surrendering their surplus areas to the state.The irregularities were committed between 1996 and 1999 when Purohit was the minister of state for urban development. Purohit, in his capacity as an appellate authority, passed orders in 20 cases. He abused his powers as a minister in 19 cases, the court said, quoting a state committee report. After considering the affidavit filed by Thane police commissioner and additional director-general of police S P S Yadav as well as the report submitted by former IAS officer Sudhakar Joshi, a division bench of Justice B H Marlapalle and Justice U D Salvi said, “Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary orders. And this case is not only extraordinary, but also unprecedented.” The court directed CBI to register an FIR against Purohit and state officials whose names figured in Joshi’s report. It mentions several revenue officials who abused their power in 1998. Though Purohit claimed that his image was being maligned, the court rejected his intervention application. The bench said they did not have confidence in CID, which is currently probing the case. “...this a reason why we are handing over the investigation to an agency that is not under the state’s control,” said Justice Marlapalle. The CID registered 29 FIRs from December 2010 to January following an earlier court directive. But in spite of prima facie evidence of fake orders, none of the officers was shown accused. The CBI will submit a report in eight weeks.