The Congress-led coalition government in Maharashtra suffered a severe jolt on Friday with the commission probing the alleged Adarsh housing society scam indicting three former chief ministers, several other politicians and some bureaucrats.
“Adarsh is … a shameless tale of blatant violations of statutory provisions, rules and regulations. It reflects the greed, nepotism and favouritism on the part of people who were in one way or the other associated with Adarsh. … Some persons not satisfied with the allotment of one single flat have tried and succeeded in securing flats for their near and dear ones. They went to the extent of benami transactions in violation of provisions. That such an episode should take place in Maharashtra is a matter of deep regret,” reads the much-awaited report of the commission, consisting of retired high court judge JA Patil and former chief secretary P Subrahmanyam, that was tabled in both Houses of the legislature on the last day of the winter session.
The three former chief ministers named are late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan. Chavan was even chargesheeted by the CBI, but a few days ago the governor refused sanction to prosecute him. Other prominent names are Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar, former revenue minister, Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope, both former urban development ministers.
The commission found 25 of the Adarsh society's 102 members ineligible to own a flat and 22 cases of benami purchase of flats. Devyani Khobragade, the Indian diplomat at the centre of a row with the US, was among those ineligible. Suresh Prabhu, Shiv Sena leader and former Union minister, and Ajay Sancheti, BJP member of Parliament, have also been indicted.
Among the 13 terms of reference the commission investigated were whether the land belonged to the state government and if the plot was reserved for families of Kargil martyrs. These were covered in Part 1 of the report that was accepted by the government. The findings with regard to the rest of the 11 terms of reference (contained in Part 2) were rejected by the government.
“We tabled Part 2 of the report and we have accepted the commission’s findings that the land belonged to Maharashtra government and that the Adarsh plot was not reserved for martyrs of the Kargil war. However, I would not want to talk about other findings of the commission as the Cabinet has rejected that part,” chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told journalists.
While Chavan did not give any reasons, it was clearly a political decision. It seems that the chief minister had referred the matter to the Congress high command which advised him on the course of action.
Vinod Tawde, BJP leader and leader of the Opposition in the legislative council, said that the chief minister who was regarded to have a clean image had shown by this decision that he supports corruption. He said that his party would approach the court and undertake a campaign among the people about “how the government is cheating them”.
The commission said the reduction of the width of Capt Prakash Pethe Marg and change of reservation of a portion of this land to residential was not in accordance with the provisions of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act. The deletion of the plot reserved for the BEST and its conversion to residential and allotment to the Adarsh society was also not in accordance with the law. It also found that approval of the height of 47.40 m for the building was a violation of the Development Control Regulations 1967 and that the land comes under the Coastal Regulation Zone 11.
The report was severe on Ashok Chavan, stating that there was a clear nexus between the actions of the former chief minister and the benefit derived by his close relatives in the form of membership of Adarsh society. It found that requisite permissions/clearances were granted by Chavan as quid pro quo. All three relatives of Chavan were ineligible for the flats.
Also accused of quid pro quo are former speaker Babasaheb Kupekar, former Mumbai collector Pradeep Vyas, former state officers PV Deshmukh and Ramanand Tiwari, and Satyasandha Vinayak Barve, the father of IPS officer Sanjay Barve.
The commission said Vilasrao Deshmukh's decisions issuing a letter of intent on the land and granting additional FSI were improper, not justifiable and not in the public interest.
The commission report stated that both Patil Nilangekar and Shinde, showed undue haste in approving the use of the land for the building. It also criticized Tatkare and Tope for unwarranted attempts to favour Adarsh society without any authority.
Former Mumbai municipal commissioner Jairaj Phatak has been accused of taking a decision on the building without considering the recommendations of the high-rise committee.