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Adarsh report says land belongs to state

Commission says land was never reserved for Kargil war heroes,their widows or defence personnel.

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: April 17, 2012 10:03:11 pm

STATING that the Ministry of Defence has failed to establish its claim on the land on which the controversial 31-storey Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society stands in south Mumbai,a judicial commission of inquiry has said the land belongs to the state government and was never reserved for Kargil war heroes,their widows or defence personnel.

Although a parallel CBI probe into the scandal continues,former chief ministers Ashok Chavan,Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh had reason to be relieved since it was during their tenure that various clearances were granted,officials said.

The report,which was tabled in the Maharashtra Assembly today,also chides the Defence Ministry several times. However,the first report of the panel,submitted on the request of the state government,deals with only two of the commission’s 13 terms of reference — that of the ownership of the land and if it was reserved for war heroes.

Taking the bite out of the most serious allegations in the Adarsh scam by rejecting the Defence Ministry’s claim on the land,the report cited “admissions on the part of the MoD,absence of entry in respect of the land in question in the Military Land register maintained by the Defence Estates Office and the inaction on the part of the Army/MoD to assert their alleged right”,in arriving at the conclusion that the land belongs to the state government.

The ministry’s claim on the land was based mainly on Section 172 (1) (a) of the Government of India Act,1935,under which if the land existed prior to April 1,1937,and was intended to be used for federal purposes,then its title would vest in the Government of India. The Mumbai Collector had in his deposition said the Army’s claim that the land in question was already reclaimed between 1917 and 1929 is “patently wrong”.

Collector C V Oak’s deposition affidavit had stated that the land of Block VI was reclaimed in or around 1970.

While the state government was unable to produce files regarding the supposed reclamation of this land in 1970,the commission report says,other survey maps had shown that the land was not in existence in 1937.

The MoD also relied upon its previous possession of the land in the form of a garden known as “Khukri Park”. The collector corroborated the MoD’s case regarding this. However,the commission found that the Army could not be said to have acquired title to the land on the basis of its possession for eight to 10 years. The report also says the Army failed to object to the demolition of the garden in 2004. “Is this conduct of inaction on the part of the Army in keeping with their claim of ownership? Certainly not,” the report says.

Relying upon the depositions of witnesses,including City Survey and Land Records Department officials,the district collector,the Town Planning Department,the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA),the Revenue Department,the Urban Development Department,the Defence Estates Office and others,the commission report says that it was only after 1985 that the MMRDA became the planning authority for the area known as the Backbay Reclamation Scheme.

When the municipal corporation (the earlier planning authority) published a development plan in 1967 and sought suggestions and objections,“even at that stage,the MoD had not raised any objection”.

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