Over a month after reinstating Adarsh-tainted IAS officer Jairaj Phatak, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan-led Maharashtra government is likely to extend another major relief to him. According to sources, the Chief Minister-led Urban Development (UD) department differs with the conclusion of the Adarsh judicial commission that the former municipal commissioner had “committed an act of omission” by not referring the proposal for regularising an additional floor constructed by the South Mumbai-based society to the high-rise committee.
The two-member judicial panel, whose report was accepted by the Maharashtra government in January this year, had indicted Phatak on this count, accusing him of “quid pro-quo”. Phatak’s son Kanishka is a member in the Adarsh society since August, 2004.
While the high-rise committee, which is a technical panel constituted by the government to advise the civic commissioner on approvals for high-rise, had issued a “no objection certificate” to the society in 2007 for construction up to 97.60 m or 27 floors, Phatak, in 2009, exercised his discretion to accept the society’s proposal for construction of another floor, thereby raising the building’s height to 100.70 metre. He ruled that the a fresh no-objection certificate from the committee was not needed since it had already scrutinised the proposal for a building height up to 103.40 metre. The approval was granted just before Phatak’s transfer from the commissioner’s post.
The judicial commission had concluded that the former municipal commissioner did not have the discretionary power not to refer the matter to the committee. It had cited the deposition of subsequent municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar, who had cited a 2004 government resolution pertaining to the committee’s constitution, to claim that “while the municipal commissioner may differ with recommendations of the high-rise panel, he does not have the discretionary power not to refer the matter to the committee.” Phatak, on the other hand, had argued that the same resolution granted the civic commissioner a power to overrule recommendations of the committee. He claimed that this also envisaged the power to decide whether a revised plan was within the height already scrutinised by the panel. He had further argued that the committee was advisory in nature and that the commissioner was within his right under prevalent development control regulations to not refer the revised plan to the committee.
Sources said that the UD department, which had been asked to confirm the validity of the charge, has concurred with Phatak’s viewpoint.
After taking a legal opinion from the state’s advocate general, the department has opined that Phatak had not violated rules in this regard. In the process, it has gone against Kumar’s view point. In January, the Maharashtra government had accepted the judicial commission’s recommendation of initiating departmental probe against Phatak and 11 other IAS officers it had indicted in the matter. For initiating of such proceedings against Phatak, the UD department was asked to look into the commission’s case against him. Sources revealed that UD has communicated its opinion to the state general administration department, which will now take further calls. The latter has already served Phatak a showcause notice on why a departmental inquiry must not be initiated against him.