The defence ministry’s “apathy” and “inaction” in asserting its right on the land gave the state government the edge in their tussle to prove ownership of the plot on which the 31-storey Adarsh society has come up.
The two-member judicial commission, led by former high court judge JA Patil and former chief secretary P Subramanium, highlighted the lapses made by the defence ministry and said it helped corroborate the state’s claim.
The 107-page report highlights the complexity of the land ownership issue.
If the army did not have the plot listed in the Military land Registrar – a record of all plots owned by the defence – the state also did not create a property card for the plot until 2004.
What made the crucial difference is that the defence ministry did not have any documentary evidence to prove the plot existed before 1937 and was in its possession.
The commission had earlier ticked off the army for submitting unauthenticated maps dating 1897 and 1909, one from Google and another from the Edinburg Geographical Institute, to prove it owned the plot. The army also submitted a 1957 Survey of India map, which was inconclusive.
The commission said the inconsistent conduct of army officials also worked against the ministry. This includes correspondences from 1958 to 2010, wherein officials have said the land belongs to the state. The report documented that in 2010, current defence estate officer Gita Kashyap wrote that “as per records”, the land belonged to the state.
The report questioned why the army remained quiet when its eco-park, allegedly inaugurated on the plot in 1996, was pulled down in 2004 and when the tower was constructed.
The state submitted several reports and maps on Backbay Reclamation, which clarified its stance that as per the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, all reclaimed land after 1967 belongs to it. “There is no evidence to show that on that date the land in question was occupied by anybody,” the report said.
The commission said the army’s plea of adverse possession – claim of right to property against true owner on grounds of long possession – was not “ethical” and smacked of “unwarranted inimical attitude” against the state.