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Adarsh panel to quiz Shinde

mumbai Updated: May 03, 2011 01:41 IST
Ketaki Ghoge

Union power minister Sushilkumar Shinde, state water resources minister Sunil Tatkare and former Union environment minister Suresh Prabhu will be among the 17 witnesses who will be quizzed by the commission looking into the Adarsh housing society scam.

Shinde will be the first former chief minister of Maharashtra to depose before the commission. The two-member commission, which made the announcement on Monday, said this is the initial list of witnesses who will have to record their statements; more are likely to be added.

The clearances to the controversial 31-storey tower in Colaba were given between the years 2000 and 2010, during the tenure of three chief ministers — Sushilkumar Shinde, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan.

Chavan was forced to resign after it came to light that his family members owned flats in the society. Shinde was the chief minister from January 2003 to November 2004, during which time the society got various clearances, including the formal letter of intent, allotment of land and the initial 51 members.

Tatkare is likely to be questioned over his role in de-reserving the adjoining BEST plot and merging it with the society while he was the minister of state for urban development department in 2004. He has earlier clarified that he held a hearing in the matter but did not take a decision.

Ex-Shiv Sena MP Prabhu, who has a flat in the society, was the Union environment minister in 1998-99. He has said that he became a member of the society only in 2004 as an MP and did not influence clearances.

Dipen Merchant, the counsel for the commission, told the court: “This is not an exhaustive list, we will add names as required. All the witnesses should file their affidavits within May 9.”

Others who have to depose before the commission include state finance secretary Pradeep Vyas, who was Mumbai collector in 2002, suspended information commissioner Ramanand Tiwari, former urban development deputy secretary PV Deshmukh, and society promoters RC Thakur and Kanhaiyalal Gidwani.

The commission will also record statements of city collector Chandrashekhar Oak, the principal secretary of urban development department and principal secretary of revenue department.

At this stage, the commission is investigating the issue of the ownership of the plot. Both the defence ministry and the state government have staked claim of the plot.