Bombay High Court orders demolition of Adarsh Society building

Apr 29 2016 6:40AM


MUMBAI: In an order that sends a strong message against corruption, the Bombay High Court on Friday ordered the Union Environment Ministry to demolish 31-storey Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society.

However, the counsel for Adarsh Housing Society pleaded for a 12-week stay on the demolition order to enable its appeal in the Supreme Court and the high court bench granted a stay.

The state and environment authorities objected to the stay.

The court also directed the state to initiate criminal prosecution against officers involved in the scam and to restore the plot. The order to raze the building comes after the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) passed an order to demolish the scam-hit society in 2011, following which its members approached the Bombay High Court challenging it. The ministry had on January 16, 2011 directed the Society to demolish within three months the "unauthorised" building for violating coastal regulations.

The high court also directed the defence ministry to conduct a departmental inquiry against its officers for not taking action earlier.

The bench of Justices RV More and RG Ketkar also directed the Ministry of Defence to conduct a departmental inquiry into its officers for not taking action early enough when the building scam came to light.

The society, originally meant to be a six-storey structure to house Kargil war heroes and war widows, was converted into a 100-metre-tall building with politicians, bureaucrats and army officers allegedly conspiring to get flats allotted to them in the cooperative society at below-market rates.

The scam was unearthed in November 2010 which forced the then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan to resign.

The court was deciding on numerous petitions filed by the Adarsh Housing Society, the ministry of defence and public interest litigant Santosh Daundkar about the construction of the 31-story high rise at posh Cuffe Parade next to Defence establishments.

In October 2010, there was a flurry of action following a TOI expose about alleged irregularities.

The matter went to the CBI and notices were issued by the environment ministry which led to multiple cases in the Bombay High Court. A criminal case was also filed in a special CBI court. In 2010, Maharashtra and the civic administration revoked the occupancy certificate granted in September 2010 as well the water and electricity supply to the building where members were yet to start residing.

The state also set up a two-member judicial panel to probe various issues related to the alleged irregularities, including the title of the plot and allotment to members. The HC had in December 2010 questioned the conduct of the IAS officers, a finding that is prominent even in the final report by the two-member HC judicial panel.

The Panel however held that the land belonged to the state government and not the defence ministry as the ministry had claimed. The ministry has filed a suit separately in the HC over the land issue. That suit is pending.

he judgment by the bench was delivered at 3pm on Friday and dealt mainly with three challenges.

It dealt with the plea by Adarsh Housing society against the demolition order passed by the Environment Ministry. The ministry said it was an illegal construction without the necessary clearances in the Coastal Regulation Zone area. The society said it had all the clearances.

The second was another plea by Adarsh Housing Society on the revocation of the occupancy certificate and the halting of the water and power supply by the state and civic authorities. The HC had in 2010 not restored either. It later made a concession for its restoration for use in the society managing committee office in the premises. 

The third was a plea by the Defence Ministry that the Adarsh Housing Society building poses a security threat to the Defence establishments in the vicinity, as it is a civilian housing tower. .

Senior counsel Darius Khambata who appeared for the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority almost fully argued the matter except on the society's allegations of breach of natural justice against the environment ministry officials. He also separately appeared for the Defence Ministry in its writ against Adarsh to oppose the grant of official in command.

Senior counsel Navroze Seervai appearing for Adarsh housing society had extensively argued that the building permissions were all in order and that the ministry had short-circuited natural justice in issuing an order of demolition which cannot be upheld.

A PIL filed by an activist Santosh Daundkar against Adarsh much earlier in 2010, had questioned the height clearance given to the building in a sensitive area. But the HC said the orders in the other matters covered all issues.

Source:-TOI

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