The Union environment ministry made it clear on Thursday that it had given no clearances to the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society in South Mumbai that allegedly violated environmental and building norms.
Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan’s late mother-in-law, Bhagwati Sharma, was among the people allotted a flat in the tower located in one of Mumbai's posh localities.
The CBI has indicated it will take a fortnight to register a case in connection with alleged irregularities in construction of the 31-storey building.
The society's members include state bureaucrats, politicians and army and navy commanders, and their relatives. There are also allegations that the plot on which the tower stands was obtained under the pretext of building homes for war veterans and widows.
The society's promoters have denied these charges. The promoters claimed they had a clearance in the form of a letter dated March 11, 2003, from the then joint director (environment and forests) A. Senthil Vel to the then deputy secretary (urban development) P.V. Deshmukh. Deshmukh is a member of the society.
The letter said the ministry had delegated powers to the state for undertaking development in the coastal regulation zone (CRZ-2). However, this was to be done in accordance with a 1991 notification and the coastal zone management plan.
The ministry said the letter was not an approval.
"The letter of the environment ministry in March 2003 was obviously a clarification to the queries raised by the urban development department of the Maharashtra government," the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
"The society violated CRZ norms and the state facilitated this…. Since the society does not have CRZ clearance, it is illegal," a senior ministry official said.
The CBI is going through more than 4,000 pages of documents — pertaining to the land deal, title and possession — that it received from the Mumbai collector's office on Tuesday.
The Congress has taken a serious view of the matter. Party chief Sonia Gandhi discussed the row over the land allotment with leaders Pranab Mukherjee and A.K. Antony on Thursday.