This November 1 file photo, two Indian boys chat in the backdrop of the Adarsh Housing Society apartments, center, in Mumbai. India says an upscale apartment building must be demolished because its location on Mumbai’s coast violates environmental protection laws.(AP Photo)
New Delhi, January 16 (Agencies): The 31-storey Adrash Housing Society building should be demolished within three months, the Environment Ministry recommended on Sunday while holding that the scam-tainted project in Mumbai’s upmarket Colaba was “unauthorised” and violated the spirit of coastal regulations. The Environment Ministry in its final orders on the controversial building, in which flats were doled out to politicians, top defence personnel and bureaucrats as well as their kin, said, “The unauthorised structure built... should be removed in its entirety and the area should be restored to its original condition.”
The Society has been asked to remove the structure on its own within three months failing which the Environment Ministry will be “constrained to enforce this direction and undertake action” under sections of the Environment Protection Act, it said in its voluminous order. “Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society has violated the very spirit of CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) Notification, 1991 by not even acknowledging the need for clearance under this notification...Ignorance of law an never be an excuse for non-compliance,” Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in a statement posted on the Ministry’s website.
Counsel for the Adarsh Society Satish Maneshinde said the order would be challenged in the High Court once its copy was available. He alleged that the contents of the order were “leaked” to the media earlier this week while the order itself was issued on a Sunday. “I think it is totally malafide and we will challenge it as and when we get the copy of the order,” he said. Accusing the society of “egregious” violation, Ramesh said the Ministry had three options at its disposal -- “removal” of the entire structure, removal of that part of the structure in excess of the floor space index (FSI) and recommending the government to takeover the building for public use which could be determined later.
“I have decided on Option I (removal of entire structure). The fact that there may well be other cases of similar violations provide no grounds for mitigation of the penalty attracted by such an egregious violation as that by the Society. “Any other decision would have diluted the strong precedents that have been set in judgements of the Supreme Court and different High Courts,” he said. The Minister said Option II (removal of the part which is in excess of FSI) was “rejected” since it would have been tantamount to regularising or condoning an egregious violation of CRZ Notification, 1991. The option of handing over the building to the government was “considered but rejected” because even though the final use may be in the public interest, it would still tantamount to regularising a violation of the CRZ Notification.
He said, in case of a takeover, there would be substantial discretionary powers that would vest with the state or the central government. The Ministry’s final order is based on the report of a panel led by Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Division Advisor Nalini Bhat which said that Adarsh Society had not obtained necessary prior clearance under the CRZ Notification from Maharashtra government after obtaining necessary recommendation from the state Coastal Zone Management Authority. Terming the structure as “unauthorised”, the report said the building be “removed in entirety” and the area restored. Defending the decision of the Environment Ministry, Congress said it was based on available material data.
“This is a government order and a government decision based upon reasoning material data in what might be called a proceedings akin to a quasi judicial proceedings,” party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said. The Adarsh society high-rise was constructed in the posh Colaba locality of Mumbai, which is considered a sensitive coastal area by the defence establishment and houses various key establishments. Congress’ Ashok Chavan had to resign as Chief Minister of Maharashtra after it emerged that three of his relatives were members of the housing society. Names of former Army chiefs General Deepak Kapoor and General N C Vij and Navy ex-chief Admiral Madhavendra Singh’s names have also cropped up as beneficiaries of the project was said to be for the benfit of Kargil war widows. The three later announced that they were surrendering their flats.
The Maharashtra Government had last week recommended to Governor the suspension of state Information Commissioner Ramanand Tiwari for his role in the Adarsh Housing Society scam. A member of the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission Subhash Lalla had also resigned after names of two of his relatives figured among the beneficiaries. The building, originally meant for Kargil war heroes and widows, landed in a controversy after it was found that several senior serving and former Army officers, bureaucrats and kin of politicians were allotted flats in it. Questions were also raised on the manner in which clearances were obtained for the construction of the building. The Environment Ministry issued a show-cause notice to the society on November 12, 2010, asking why the multi-storey building should not be demolished for “violating” environmental norms.
After three extensions, the Ministry at a final hearing on January 4 sought a written submission by January 10. In its written submission, the Society demanded an immediate end to proceedings against it, insisting that it had got all the required clearances. The Society had also slammed the “undue haste” shown in the initiation of punitive proceedings against it and “converting” their “meritorious case” into a “trial” by media. The written submission had detailed the sequence of events from 2000 when the steps were started for building the society, including the “clearances” given by the Maharashtra government and “no-objection certificate” by the Environment Ministry in 2003. “The allegations in the show-cause notice about the building of Adarsh having been constructed without prior clearance under 1991 notification is misplaced and incorrect,” the submission had said.
Decision on Env Ministry’s Adarsh order soon: Maha govt
Mumbai, January 16 (Agencies): The Maharashtra government would soon take a decision on the Union Environment Ministry’s recommendation to demolish the 31-storey scam-tainted Adrash Housing Society building here. “We will read the order issued by the Environment Ministry over the Adarsh society and decide what is to be done,” State Environment Minister Sanjay Devtale said on Sunday.
The Union Ministry has held that the building in upmarket Colaba was “unauthorised” and violated the spirit of coastal regulations. It gave the recommendation today after hearing the society members earlier. The State government has not yet received the recommendation, but a decision on it would be taken soon, Devtale said. Opposition leaders and social activists welcomed the decision and demanded its immediate implementation.
“The Environment Ministry itself has declared the building illegal and it has to be demolished. The bureaucrats involved in the scam should also be punished because the entire issue has brought shame to the State,” Leader of Opposition in Assembly and BJP member Eknath Khadse said. Echoing Khadse, Shiv Sena MP Bharatkumar Raut said the Ministry has taken a right decision and it should be implemented. p>