Mumbai : Determined to end a saga of corruption, the Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Union of India – the Ministry of Environment and Forests & the Ministry of Defence – to demolish the 31-storeyed Adarsh building located in Colaba within a month as it was illegally constructed.
The demolition would be carried out at the expense of the members of the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society, the court ruled.
However, on a plea made by the Adarsh Housing Society, the division bench stayed its order for 12 weeks to enable the society to file an appeal in the Supreme Court, despite opposition by the Maharashtra government.
The judges, who conducted the final hearing in the case between September-December 2015, also ordered the state government to probe the involvement of politiciains, ministers and officials in the scam, initiate criminal or civil proceedings against them for “misuse and abuse” of their powers and restore the plot to its rightful owner. (A title suit was filed by the Defence Ministry claiming that it owned the land on which the 31-storey society building was constructed.)
Also probe misuse & abuse of power, court directs Govt.
The court has further asked both the central government and the state government to initiate departmental actions against bureaucrats who did not file any petition before 2012 regarding the construction. This ruling of the High Court has come in response to a petition which was filed by the Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society challenging the orders of the Ministry of Environment and Forests to demolish the said building within 3 months. Jairam Ramesh, the then environment minister, had in 2011 ordered the demolition on the plea that the building has flouted norms of Coastal Regulation Zone. Also the Ministry of Defence had intervened in the matter citing security breach by the constructors of the building.
While pronouncing the order Justice Ketkar noted that the concerned courts (which are hearing other cases related to the issue) shall decide the case on the basis of the evidence on record and in accordance with law. Justice Ketkar also said that the courts shall not get influenced by the observations made by the HC in this petition.
The court has also directed the petitioner – the Adarsh Society — to give an amount of Rs one lakh each to Bharat Bhushan, Director of MOEF, Nalini Bhat, Advisor and Competent Authority, MoEF, along with Sitaram Kunte, the former Commissioner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, and three others as compensation. The bench placed on record its appreciation for the complainant Simpreet Singh, a member of the National Alliance of People’s Movement. “But for this intervention, perhaps the gross violation by the petitioners – the Adarsh Society — would not have been detected,” said the Judges.
The Adarsh housing scam had kicked up a political storm in
2010 forcing the then chief minister Ashok Chavan of the
Congress to resign.
The housing project, standing on prime land in Mumbai, was
meant for the welfare of war veterans and war widows. But
several influential politicians and top bureaucrats allegedly
subverted the rules for their own benefit or that of their
close relatives to take advantage of the scheme.
Acting Advocate General of Maharashtra, Rohit Dev, on
behalf of the state government, told the court that he was
opposing the stay sought by the petitioner – the Adarsh Society – to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.
Senior counsel Navroz Seervai, appearing for Adarsh Society, highlighted issues, starting from the Development
plan for the city prepared in 1967, to argue that there were no violations either of the rules or the Coastal Regulation Zone.
WHAT ABOUT THE BONAFIDE FLAT OWNERS?
The Adarsh building is currently unoccupied and without electricity and water supply. In 2013, a judicial commission found that 25 of the 102 members in the Adarsh society were ineligible and there were 22 cases of flats being bought on proxies. However, the court ruling on Friday has turned the spotlight on the 102 members who were bonafide residents of the building and have to bear the brunt of the corrupt few. These flat owners will be watching the ensuing developments closely, especially if the society goes in appeal to the Supreme Court. The Campa Colony saga is still fresh in their minds.