Mumbai, April 29 (IANS) Sending a strong signal against corruption, the Bombay High Court here on Friday upheld a 2011 order of the Ministry of Environment, and asked the Centre to demolish the controversial 31-storey Adarsh Society Building.
It also ordered the government to take criminal action against politicians and bureaucrats for “misuse and abuse” of power.
On a plea by the Society’s lawyer, a division bench of Justice R.V. More and Justice R.G. Ketkar put on hold its own orders for 12 weeks (about three months) to allow the Society and the state government to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.
However, Acting Advocate-General Rohit Dev representing the state, opposed the stay on the order sought by the Society.
“The high court has upheld the order of the ministry on January 16, 2011, to demolish the building within three months but it was challenged by the Adarsh Society,” said Y.P. Singh, one of the lawyers involved in the case.
The judges, who conducted the final hearing in the case between September-December 2015, also ordered the state government to probe the involvement of politiciains, ministers and officials in the scam, initiate criminal or civil proceedings against them for “misuse and abuse” of their powers and restore the plot.
The demolition would be carried out at the expense of Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society, the court ruled.
The judges also directed the defence ministry to conduct a departmental inquiry against its officers for not initiating action early enough when the scam pertaining to the building was exposed.
The court verdict came in the open court on a bunch of petitions filed by the Society challenging the environment ministry’s 2011 order and the title suit filed by the defence ministry claiming ownerhship of the land where the building was constructed.
The court also appreciated the efforts by complainant Simpreet Singh, a member of National Alliance of Peoples’ Movement (NAPM) without whose intervention, it said, the gross violations by the Society would have gone undetected.
The high court verdict came on the then union minister for environment Jairam Ramesh’s order dated January 16, 2011, for demolition of the building within three months as it was unauthorised and violated coastal regulation zone norms, among other things.
Later, the defence ministry also moved the court seeking implementation of the environment ministry’s orders to raze the 31-storey tower in Colaba, adjacent to the defence establishments in south Mumbai.
After the scam erupted in November 2010, with allegations that it had violated various environmental norms and regulations, lacked certain permissions and other issues, it claimed the job of then chief minister Ashok Chavan and several other officials.
The building, originally intended to be a six-storey structure to house Kargil War heroes and widows, was later transformed into a 100-metre tall tower in which several politicians, bureaucrats and army officers allegedly conspired to corner flats at cheap rates.
The CBI investigations finally resulted in 13 people being charge-sheeted. Among them was Ashok Chavan, whose three relatives figured in the list of the tainted Society’s members. The building remains unoccupied, without water and electricity since November 2010.
In January 2011, a two-member commission of inquiry consisting retired high court judge, Justice J.A. Patil, and retired chief secretary P. Subrahmanyam, was also constituted but the then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party only partly accepted its recommendations.