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Demolish Adarsh says HC, Congress scurries for cover

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST

The Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society - which became a symbol of corruption and misuse of power - will soon be razed. The Bombay High Court on 29 April ordered the demolition of the 31-storey building situated in South Mumbai's upmarket Colaba area.

The order is seen as major blow to the politicians and bureaucrats under the scanner for corruption to the tune to several crores. However, the court has at the same time restrained the authorities from taking coercive action for next 12 weeks, which is the time given to the housing society to challenge the order in the Supreme Court.

The division bench of the Bombay high Court comprising Justice RV More and RG Ketkar, has also directed the state and central government to consider appropriate proceedings against bureaucrats, politicians and ministers for conniving to grab prime land in South Mumbai and gross misuse and abuse of power.

The order has sent shockwaves in Maharashtra's political circles, particularly in the Congress. The names of senior Congress leaders like Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan have figured in connection with the scam.

Read- Adarsh Scam: Former Maha CM Ashok Chavan to be prosecuted

"This is historical judgment by Bombay High Court. We have been flagging the scam since the last several years. The Congress-NCP government manage to get a CBI inquiry against Chavan refused by the then Governor K Sankaranarayanan. However, current Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao has approved the inquiry. The truth will soon come out," said BJP's chief spokesperson Madhav Bhandari.

Strangely, the order is a vindication for one Congress leader - Jairam Ramesh, who as environment minister, had ordered the demolition of the society.

After the irregularities were exposed in late 2010, the environment ministry began investigations into the alleged violations of coastal regulatory zone notifications in the construction of the building. In 2011, it ordered the demolition of the building.

The Society challenged the decision at the Bombay High Court. The order to demolish the building comes after the matter was heard for 6 long years.

Following pressure from the Opposition, the then Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra, constituted a commission to inquire into the matter. The investigations by the commission exposed the connivance of bureaucrats and politicians in giving illegal approvals to the building. According to the original plan, the building was meant for the Kargil war heroes and widows of the martyrs.

The building proposed on the 6490 sq meter prime plot in Colaba, initially was a six storey building, which subsequently became a plush 31 storey building with more than 100 members.

Apart from several serious irregularities, the title of the land had always been a contention between the state government and the ministry of defence, with both claiming ownership of the land.

While the then CM Chavan maintained that the land belonged to the state government, the ministry of defence claimed ownership since it was in de-facto possession of the land for six decades. The president of the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society Brig. (retd) MM Wanchoo had claimed that it was not defence land.

The society, originally meant for Kargil war heroes, now has 103 members including Chavan's in-laws

The housing society, originally conceived for Kargil war heroes and widows of martyrs, now has 103 members including in-laws of Ashok Chavan, various bureaucrats and their relatives and politicians.

When contacted Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, "The dispute is about some violations by the housing society. The Congress party or any leader is in no way connected to the scam. We have made our position clear on the issue that our leaders will come clean after the inquiry. It is the BJP that has to answer several questions. Their leaders own benami flats in the building."

The bureaucrats who benefited from the scam include former chief secretary of Maharashtra DK Shankaran. His son Sanjoy owns a flat in the society. The politicians who won the flats in the building include NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad, late Congress leader Kanhaiyalala Gidwani and his two sons.

Also read: CBI gets Governor's go ahead to prosecute Ashok Chavan. Cong cries foul

Reacting to the order, Awhad, who is one of the members of the society said, "It is the perception of the judge. We have the option to move the Apex Court. The society will challenge the order there. There are several senior military officers who are members of the society and have taken loans to purchase flats in the building. They will suffer huge financial losses."

According to current market rates, the flats in the society cost in the range of Rs 8-10 crore. However, the members paid Rs 65-80 lakh for each flat.

Edited by Aditya Menon

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First published: 30 April 2016, 9:36 IST
Ashwin Aghor @CatchNews

Journalist based in Mumbai.