Members of Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society said on Tuesday that they did not “grab” defence land at Colaba for the building. The members have been accused of getting clearances by initially promoting the building as a six-storey structure that would house war veterans and widows. The building — which was eventually constructed as a 31-storey structure housing army and naval commanders, as well as bureaucrats and politicians — is also being investigated for flouting environmental norms.
Society members have denied all these allegations.
Society members on Tuesday said the plot was owned by the state government and handed over to them in July 2004 after payment of an amount based on the official ready reckoner rates.
Brigadier MM Wanchu, president of the society, said: “The society was never reserved for war heroes or widows, but meant for the public. About 60% of our members are serving or retired defence officials.”
However, Wanchu did not clarify how a housing society like any other managed to get prime real estate in Colaba and also wrested higher floor space index for a structure that stands on Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) 2 land.
CRZ 2 norms impose restrictions on vertical development. The permission to build 31 storeys violated the norms that froze floor space index at 1.33 — that is, built-up area could not exceed 1.33 times the plot size.
Wanchu said the proposal for housing for war widows and veterans was for the second phase of the society. For this, the society had sought a 10,000 sq mt plot that lies largely under water at Colaba. The plan was to reclaim the land and construct a building on it. The Environment Department scuttled this plan since the land falls under CRZ 1, which means there can be no construction on it.
Rebutting Western Naval Command chief Sanjiv Bhasin’s allegations that the building was a security risk and was cleared under pressure from influential people residing there, society promoter RC Thakur said: “There is no naval establishment nearby. It overlooks naval and Army residential facilities, as well as recreational clubs.’’
He asked why the allegations were being made so late in the day and said they smacked of a personal agenda. “The construction started in 2005, so why did the naval command wake up to the so-called irregularities only in 2009? The truth is there are no irregularities, but we had to say no to many people who wanted flats here,” said Thakur.
The society members said the restrictions on construction within 1,000 mt around sensitive defence establishments were applicable only to certain notified areas and that Colaba was not among them.