The Bombay High Court directive to demolish the controversial Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society, an illegal building in Mumbai, has come as a setback to the Congress trying to revive its political fortunes under the leadership of former chief minister Ashok Chavan in Maharashtra.
Chavan’s political rehabilitation was the outcome of support from Congress VP Rahul Gandhi. After the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly routs, the party had decided to bring back Ashok Chavan to lead the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee.
On Friday, the court directed the Centre-state government to start proceedings against all the politicians and bureaucrats involved in the multi-crore Adarsh scam. The names include that of Ashok Chavan, facing charges for violating rules and nepotism by allotting flats to relatives.
Sources in the MPCC said, “Ashok Chavan’s case is pending in the apex court. He has always maintained that he had not done any wrong in the Adarsh society.”
Political managers in the party said, “We may absolve individuals, but cannot justify Adarsh, which has exposed the deep nexus between politicians and bureaucrats.”
A senior party functionary said, “Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had clearly stated violation of environment rules in the Adarsh Housing…”
The scam in the 31 storeyed structure with 102 flats has exposed 23 benami transactions, and involvement of 12 IAS officers who violated the code of conduct, along with the role of former chief ministers late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan.
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The BJP-led government, after consulting the Centre, will take a formal decision on the fate of Adarsh building. A senior officer said, “We have 12 weeks’ time. But we would go by court directives.” The departmental probe against IAS officials is already in progress. Governor C H Vidyasagar Rao gave the sanction to the Central Bureau of Investigation to prosecute former chief minister Ashok Chavan in February, 2016.
Other breaks: Man who cleared 31st floor is father of Adarsh allottee
In 2014, the Congress-NCP government had partially accepted the Adarsh Commission Report, which exposed rampant corruption and a nexus between top politicians and bureaucrats who bent rules to serve their own interests. Despite serious indictments, the government gave a clean chit to all politicians and ordered an internal departmental probe against 12 bureaucrats. In 2014, the then governor K Shankaranarayanan had refused permission to CBI to prosecute Ashok Chavan.
From the archives: In Oct,defence audit questioned allotment of land to highrise
On November 9, 2010, Ashok Chavan was forced to resign as chief minister for allocating flats to close relatives. He was replaced with Prithviraj Chavan from the PMO, known for his upright image. Ashok Chavan is accused of giving permissions in violation of rules. He is accused of non-deduction of 15 per cent recreational ground while calculating FSI. The commission noted that it cannot be treated as innocent. It cannot be a sheer coincidence in the backdrop of all processes that his three relatives apply and get flats in the same society, it said.
Ashok Chavan’s relatives who got flats
Former chief minister Ashok Chavan’s three relatives got flats in Adarsh, Chavan’s mother-in-law Bhagwati Sharma, his father-in-law’s bother Madanlal Sharma and sister-in-law Seema Sharma.
Bureaucrats who violated conduct rules
There were 12 bureaucrats facing investigation for their role in Adarsh. They include Subash Lalla (former secretary to CM); Pradeep Vyas (ex-collector Mumbai); Jairaj Phatak (ex-BMC commissioner); Ramanand Tiwari (ex-principal secretary Urban development); C S Sangitrao (ex-secretary to CM); D K Sankaran (former chief secretary); I A Kundan (ex-collector), Thomas Benjamin (former principal secretary, urban development); P V Deshmukh (deputy secretary urban development), Suresh Joshi (former commissioner MMRDA), T Chandrashekhar (former MMRDA chief); Umesh Luktuke (former chief town and country planner).
Cases of benami flats
Of the total 102 members, 25 were found ineligible. It included 22 benami transactions. The list of such candidates includes Abhay Sancheti related to Ajay Sancheti (MP) in Rajya Sabha from BJP, considered close to union minister Nitin Gadkari. It also includes the name of Madanlal Sharma (related to Ashok Chavan).
What were major violations in Adarsh?
Adarsh CHS had never applied to MoEF for CRZ clearance, which was mandatory. The land was under CRZ-II. The sanction to the highrise building to raise the height to 97.60 mts was not in accordance with rules. There was non-compliance of rules while proposing to reduce width of Capt Prakash Peth Marg from 60.97 metres to 18.40 metres.
The membership was arbitrary and lacked transparency. Verification of membership applications at the collector’s office was not done properly.
The Story till now
July 1999: Adarsh Housing Society approaches government seeking plot in Colaba.
July 9, 1999: Government Resolution (GR) issued allotting plot to the society.
October 4, 2004: Collector, Mumbai hands over plot to the society.
October 27, 2009: Western Naval Command seeks details of the society from deputy registrar of the cooperative.
September 16, 2010: Adarsh society gets Occupation Certificate (OC) from MMRDA.
October 25, 2010: Navy confirms that it has taken objection to Adarsh society on security grounds.
October 28, 2010: Media reports indicate that then Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s mother-in-law and another relative had flats in the society.
October 31, 2010: Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) issues notice to Adarsh seeking OC.
November 3, 2010: MMRDA revokes Adarsh society OC, BEST cuts off power supply and BMC cuts off water supply to the society. Adarsh says it will move High Court.
November 9, 2010: Ashok Chavan’s resignation accepted.
November 11, 2010: Prithviraj Chavan becomes new chief minister of Maharashtra.
November 22, 2010: Adarsh moves High Court against revocation of OC, power and water supply cut.
December 21, 2010: HC says Adarsh a “clear cut case of manipulation”.
December 23, 2010: HC refuses interim relief to Adarsh adjourning hearing for one month.
Janaury 9, 2011: Government appoints a two-member judicial commission under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, to investigate alleged irregularities and corruption.
January 16, 2011: Union Environment ministry recommends that Adarsh be demolished within three months. The residents approach Bombay High Court to challenge this order.
April 13, 2012: The Adarsh Commission submits interim report to the state government.
April 17, 2012: The state government tables the finding of the interim report in the Legislative Assembly.
April 18, 2013: The Commission submits its final report to the Maharashtra Chief Secretary. Says land in question belongs to the government of Maharashtra and not the Ministry of Defence. Mentions that the land in question or membership of the Adarsh CHS was not reserved for Defence Personnel or Kargil War heroes.
December 19, 2013: The then Governor K Sankaranarayanan refuses CBI permission to prosecute Ashok Chavan in the case.
December 20, 2013: After almost eight months, the finding of the report is tabled in the Assembly and made public.
November 20, 2014: The Bombay High Court dismisses a CBI plea to drop Ashok Chavan’s name as an accused in the scam.
February 5, 2016: With BJP government at the helm, Maharashtra Governor C H Vidyasagar Rao grants approval to
the CBI to prosecute Ashok Chavan.