The Bombay high court on Friday ordered the demolition of Adarsh Housing Society, an illegal apartment block in the plush Colaba area of Mumbai that became a symbol of political corruption and led to the ouster of Ashok Chavan as Maharashtra chief minister.
A bench of justice Ranjit More and justice Rajesh Ketkar asked the Centre and the Maharashtra government to consider initiating “civil and criminal action against politicians, ministers and bureaucrats” involved in the scam for “misuse and abuse of power.”
It also asked the state government to inquire as to how the construction of the 31-storey building was allowed.
The cooperative housing society has also been directed by the high court to pay Rs 6 lakh as costs to several officials of the Union ministry of environment and forest and state government. The cost of the demolition of the building is also to be recovered from the housing society.
The court, however, gave the housing society 12 weeks to approach the Supreme Court.
The Adarsh Housing Society made national headlines after it came to light that a nexus of politicians, army officials and bureaucrats had colluded to obtain flats built on prime defence land to house army officers, war heroes and widows.
The defence ministry and the state government were also embroiled in a legal battle over the ownership of the plot.
The tower was built without proper clearances, permissions and the mandatory coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) nod required for plots falling in this zone. It was also granted an additional FSI by misusing the existing provisions of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act, 1966.
In 2011, the environment ministry ordered demolition of the tower in which 21 bureaucrats and several politicians or their kin owned flats in the tower in their name or through benami transactions. The society’s lawyer had said order by the Centre to demolish the building was “unfair” and challenged it in court.
All three former chief ministers of Maharashtra – Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Chavan – had come under the scanner for their role in granting clearances to the tower. Only Chavan was named as accused in the case by the CBI.
The Adarsh commission report had also indicted only Chavan of quid pro quo as it was revealed that three of his family members – his sister-in-law, mother-in-law and uncle of his wife – owned flats in the tower. The report had said that Chavan’s decision of giving exemption from 15% reservation ground, which allowed for the building to go higher, cannot be considered innocent.
The report also indicted Shinde, Deshmukh and former ministers Sunil Tatkare, Shivajirao Nilangekar Patil, of giving the society political patronage.
In February this year, governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao gave the sanction to the CBI to prosecute Chavan in the case. Chavan had stepped down in 2010 in the wake of the scam. His case was in virtual cold storage since December 2013 after the last governor refused sanction to prosecute.
Fifty people, including financiers of some of the flats, had been charge sheeted by CBI in the case. Some of those charged include former MLA Mukund Mankar, five bureaucrats, including former UDD secretary Ramanand Tiwari, former BMC commissioner Jairaj Phatak, former UDD deputy secretary PV Deshmukh, former collector Pradeep Vyas and former principal secretary in CMO Subhash Lalla.
BJP MP Ajay Sancheti’s brother Abhay and his family members have also been charged for owning benami flats in the case.