July 20, 2016 3:53:51 am
Moving on the Adarsh housing scandal in Mumbai, the Army has instituted a Court of Inquiry to probe alleged lapses by former General Officers Commanding of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa Area (MG&G Area) in not filing a writ petition in the Bombay High Court “at the earliest available opportunity”. It will also inquire whether they compromised security of the Colaba military station in lieu of flats in the society building.
Sources in the Southern Command in Pune said a Major General has been appointed as presiding officer of the Court of Inquiry and two Brigadiers have been named as its members. All three officers are from a formation located in the area of responsibility of the Southern Command and have moved to Mumbai for the inquiry.
The Army’s move to set up a Court of Inquiry follows directions from the Bombay High Court on a petition filed by the Army through Headquarters MG&G Area. While ordering demolition of the building of the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society in April this year, the High Court had directed the Ministry of Defence to order an inquiry into alleged lapses on part of its own officers.
In its order, the High Court said: “Ministry of Defence is… directed to hold an in-depth inquiry for finding out lapses or reasons on the part of its officers for not instituting writ petition at the earliest available opportunity as also finding out whether these GOCs compromised security of Colaba Military Station (CMS) in lieu of allotment of flats in the building of the society.”
Sources said the terms of reference of the Court of Inquiry will be guided by the the directions of the High Court. The court order stated that the inquiry should find out whether the GOCs of the Area between 1999 and July 13, 2010 — Major General A R Kumar, Major General V S Yadav, Major General T K Kaul, Major General Tejinder Singh and Major General R K Hooda — compromised security of CMS in lieu of allotment of flats in the society building.
The Army’s counsel had submitted in court that the Adarsh society ensured that each successive GOC of the MG&G Area or a member of his family was made a member of the society and allotted a flat.
From 1999 until July 13, 2010, all GOCs of MG&G Area became members of the Adarsh society. “During that period, there was no objection to Adarsh building on the basis that it was not perceived as a security threat, nor there was any objection for transfer of land under occupation or owned by Army to Adarsh society,” the counsel told the court.
The Adarsh scandal first surfaced in 2003 when it was reported that a highrise building was coming up in Colaba, close to military installations, overriding objections. The society promoting the venture had a large number of senior military officers, politicians and bureaucrats as its members though it was meant to be for war heroes and next of kin of those killed in the Kargil war.
Subsequent probes revealed the involvement of then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan, who had to resign when it was found that he accorded approval to the project as Revenue Minister and his relatives had flats in the society building.
The Army contended before the High Court that due to terror attacks in the country, safeguarding high-value targets in the CMS had assumed great importance. “Adarsh building is the tallest building in the vicinity of the CMS, standing 31 storeys tall, and can facilitate complete observation of military equipment, vehicles and personnel moving into and out of the area.”
“Being located on the ‘neck’, joining Colaba island, one can observe the sea on either side of Colaba island, providing the opportunity for strategically advantageous observation. HQ MG&G Area and HQ Mumbai Sub Area, which operate as command posts and nerve centres of activity in case of operational necessity, are located in close proximity to the Adarsh building and can be seriously crippled by small arms hand-held weapons,” the Army told the court.
Highlighting its objections to the Adarsh society building, the Army also told the High Court that the entire top decision-making echelons of the Army are situated in the HQ MG&G Area and can be targeted with sniper rifles from the building.
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