While the police are still investigating what led to the suicide of Thane builder Suraj Parmar, it has emerged that a former Thane municipal commissioner’s brother was one of Parmar’s business partners in one of his projects.
The Indian Express has accessed official records that show that Suresh Jantre, brother of former Thane civic chief Nandkumar Jantre, is an official partner in Concorde Developers, a firm floated by Parmar. Concorde Developers is at present building Cosmos Horizon, a luxury residential complex in Pokhran Road, Thane. Incidentally, police are also going through various clearances and documents pertaining to this construction project. Parmar shot himself on October 7 leaving behind a suicide note alleging harassment by politicians and officials. The builder had earlier referred to Cosmos Horizon extensively in a five-page letter to municipal commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal on May 30, 2015, in which he accused some “so called social workers” of harassing and targeting him and even complaining against his project in order to delay clearances.
Amid ongoing investigations, allegations of a “quid pro-quo” were also raised in the project after it was found that Nandkumar Jantre had first permitted an FSI of 2.5, meaning permissible construction of up to 2.5 times the plot area, for the project on May 24, 2010, his last day as Thane civic chief. Records further show that he had also exercised his discretionary powers to relax norms on floor height and open space requirements.
Concorde Developers, which has five partners in all, had purchased the 2.77 lakh-square feet plot on Pokhran Road, a prime location in Thane, in October 2009. Vikrant Chavan, a Congress corporator, who is under investigation for his role in abetting Parmar’s suicide, had incidentally raised the allegations of a quid pro-quo. He did so in official correspondences issued to various authorities. In Thane, development of private plots is generally permitted FSI of 1.
When contacted, Nandkumar Jantre said he was aware that his brother was a partner in Concorde while granting the approval but refuted the quid pro-quo allegations. “Just because your relative or friend is a project partner cannot be grounds for withholding permission to a project that is valid under the rule of law.”
The retired bureaucrat justified the decision he had taken then. “The permission was granted on the basis of a state government (Urban Development department) notification (dated February 27, 2009) that had modified development control norms in Thane to allow construction up to 2.5 FSI for housing schemes taken up by the Maharashtra Housing And Area Development Authority on its own or in joint ventures with private developers. In this case, MHADA had (on April 16, 2009) issued a Letter of Intent (LOI) for one such joint venture with Concode for development of the Pokhran plot,” he said.
Stating that he was unnecessarily being dragged into the controversy, Nandkumar Jantre further said, “My brother was a partner in the firm even before MHADA floated the JV scheme. Further, all permissions and concessions I granted were well within the legal framework. If these had been erroneous, those who succeeded me to the post had powers to revoke these. But they have granted further permissions only validating the stand I had taken then,” he said.
The builders and the Thane municipality are currently locked in a legal dispute over the 2.5 FSI in the Supreme Court. The civic body has restricted permission for construction on the plot to 1 FSI for now.
Within two months of Jantre issuing the initial permission to Concorde, the state government had in July 2010 decided to scrap the “special scheme” for privately owned plots. But Thane civic officials have maintained that it was only on May 11, 2011, that the Urban Development department issued orders stating that the provisions of the scheme were wrongly applied to private plots and directing it not to go ahead with the project. Then, on November 11, 2011, MHADA revoked the LOI to Concorde, which challenged it in the Bombay High Court. Although the high court ruled in the developer’s favour the same year, the state directed the Thane Municipal Corporation to appeal against the order in the Supreme Court, where the matter is currently pending.
The Indian Express has accessed an official document which shows that the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Office had in June 2013 sought a status report on permission granted to the project after one Sandeep Dhamane had approached then CM Prithviraj Chavan with a written complaint levelling allegations of quid pro quo against Nandkumar Jantre and levelling graft charges against civic officials for granting “higher FSI”.