The Bombay High Court on Friday ordered the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to demolish the 31-storey Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society in South Mumbai.
The High Court also directed the Centre and state government to consider launching criminal proceedings against bureaucrats, politicians and ministers for “committing various offences in acquiring the plots” on which the society was constructed and for abuse of power.
“Union of India and state government should consider initiating appropriate civil and criminal proceedings against the concerned bureaucrats, politicians and ministers if not already done,” said a division bench.
On a plea by the Adarsh Housing Society, the bench stayed its order for 12 weeks to enable an appeal to be filed before the Supreme Court.
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The order was delivered by a bench of Justices R V More and R G Ketkar on a bunch of petitions filed by Adarsh Society challenging the demolition order of the MoEF and a suit filed by the Ministry of Defence, claiming that it owned the land on which the society was built.
The Society has been mired in controversy after reports first emerged in 2010 that politicians, bureaucrats and ministers had promoted the society that had been originally earmarked as a housing project for Kargil war widows.
The then Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan had to subsequently quit after reports emerged that some of his family members had been alloted flats in the society.
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A two-member Commission appointed by the state government submitted a report in April 2013 which said the land belonged to the government of Maharashtra and not to the Ministry of Defence. It also stated that the land in question or membership of the Adarsh CHS was not reserved for Defence Personnel or Kargil war heroes.
“Union of India and state government should consider initiating departmental proceedings against bureaucrats in accordance with law. The disciplinary authority shall take the decision in accordance with law and without being influenced by observations and findings recorded,” said the bench, adding that the Society will also bear the cost of demolition.
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The Adarsh CHS has been told to pay Rs 1 lakh each to six persons, including Bharat Bhushan, the then MoEF director; Nalini Bhat, former advisor and competent authority, MoEF; E Thirunavukkarasu, then deputy director MoEF; and Dr A Senthil, an official in MoEF, apart from Sitaram Kunte, former commissioner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and T C Benjamin, then an Urban Development Department official.
The court order comes after MoEF decided to get the scam-tainted CHS demolished in 2011.The ministry had said that the construction was illegal as it had been carried out without obtaining necessary clearances in the Coastal Regulation Zone area. The CHS had denied the charges and claimed that it had all the clearances.
Another plea filed by Adarsh CHS dealt with cancellation of the occupancy certificate and cutting of water and power supply by authorities.
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