In a big relief for Maharashtra government,the judicial commission probing the Adarsh housing scam has said the land on which the controversial skyscraper stands belongs to the state and not the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and that it was not reserved for Kargil war widows.
The interim report of the two-member panel headed by former High Court Judge J A Patil,which was tabled in the state assembly today by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan,has said MoD has failed to prove its ownership of the land.
“The claim of Maharashtra government stands established in view of the provisions of section 294 of Maharashtra land revenue code 1966,” the report said.
The Commission,which gave its report on the limited issues of ownership and whether it was reserved for defence personnel or Kargil war heroes,said,”At the time of arguments,counsel for ministry of defence,state government or even the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society uniformly submitted that there was no such reservation.”
The panel said it was a final report so far as the terms of references of ownership of land and whether it was reserved for Kargil war heroes was concerned.
The report has come as a huge relief for former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan,one of the 14 accused in case registered by the CBI.
According to CBI,Chavan during his tenure as Revenue Minister allegedly became part of the criminal conspiracy along with other accused in the approval of a resolution recommending inclusion of civilians in Adarsh society which was originally meant for Kargil war widows and victims.
CBI has alleged that Chavan abused his official position with an ulterior motive of getting flats for his relatives.
It was during the tenure of Sushil Kumar Shinde as Chief Minister that Chavan’s proposal recommending 40 per cent allotment of flats in the society to civilians was accepted.
The panel has castigated the Army and MoD for its handling of the issue,saying their conduct was not consistent with claims of ownership of the land.
“The conduct of the Army/Ministry of Defence in connection with the land in question is not at all consistent with their claim of ownership,much less ownership by adverse possession,” the report observed.
The Army claims that it was in possession of the land in question and it had set up an eco park called the ‘Khukri Garden’ which was inaugurated in 1996. The evidence on record shows that sometime around 2004 the garden was demolished by pulling down the compound wall and fencing around it as well as by cutting trees.
“The Army which claims to have been looking after the maintenance of the garden did not try to stop such a destructive act being done on the property which according to them was of their ownership.
“There is nothing on record to show that the Army made any representation to the state government for stopping the demolition of the park nor did they approach any court of law for relief of injunction to prevent the garden from being demolished. Is this conduct of inaction on part of the Army in keeping with their claim of ownership? Certainly not,” the panel said.
“The evidence on record further shows that after the allotment of the land in question,the society undertook construction work of the building which ultimately went upto 103 meter high,” it said. The 31-storey high-rise stands in upscale Colaba.
“The said construction of Adarsh building is in close vicinity of the army units and apparently a threat to its security. But even then no word of protest was uttered by the Army and MoD who allowed the construction work to come up,”
the Commission said.
A number of top civil and army officials and politicians,including former chief Minister Ashok Chavan,are alleged to have facilitated clearances for the building and got flats in it as quid pro quo.
Nine of the 14 accused,including two senior IAS officers have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the scam.
The report refers to one Brigader Saxena who had admitted in his evidence that the Army Headquarters was fully aware that the land in question was earmarked by the state government in the draft development plan.
“It is true that the Army did not object to the inclusion of the land in question in the draft development plan in spite of having knowledge of the same.
“The same attitude of indifference on part of the Army/MoD is seen in connection with the allotment of land in question to the Adarsh CHS by the state government as well as subsequent construction of building.”
Reacting to the report,the CBI has,however,said it will not have any effect on the probe being carried out by it.
“The Commission’s report is not going to have any effect on CBI investigations. Our mandate is different from that of the Commission. CBI is only looking into criminal misconduct and abuse of official position by government servants. We are not getting into who owns the land or who was in possession of it,” a top agency official told PTI.
The Commission itself is still probing a host of other aspects in the scam including violations of coastal zone regulations,wrongful inclusion of members otherwise ineligible for a flat in the building,and whether any public servant involved in grant of clearances had benefited as quid pro quo,thus attracting provisions of Prevention of Corruption act.
It is also tasked with recommending measures to bring transparency and eliminate discretion in the matter of allotment of government land to the housing societies.
The panel is yet to submit its report on these issues.