Says land not reserved for Kargil war heroes and their families

The Maharashtra government-appointed two-member Adarsh judicial commission has concluded that the land where the Adarsh building was constructed belongs to the government. It refuted the Ministry of Defence's claim over the land and concluded that the land was not reserved for Kargil war heroes and their families.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday tabled the commission's final report on title and reservation of the land in question before the Assembly. He also tabled the Action Taken Report on the commission's findings. “The government has accepted the conclusions of the commission,” the Action Taken Report stated.

Meanwhile, senior counsel of the commission Dipan Merchant told journalists that since the State government and the Ministry unanimously told the commission that the land was not reserved for Kargil war heroes or their families, the commission did not find it necessary to give its findings on the same.

The commission observed in its 115-page report that neither the Letter of Intent, nor the Letter of Acceptance contained any term for providing reservation for Defence personnel or Kargil war heroes.

“In fact, at the time of the arguments, lead counsel for the MOD [Ministry of Defence], GOM [Government of Maharashtra] or even Adarsh CHS [Cooperative Housing Society] uniformly submitted that there was no such reservation. In view of this position, there is no difficulty in recording a negative finding on term no.2 [reservation of land] of the reference,” the commission said. On the issue of the title of the land in question, the commission observed that the Ministry had failed to establish its claim. “However, this is not so with the claim of the GOM [Government of Maharashtra]. Their claim stands established in view of the provisions of section 294 of the MLRC [Maharashtra Land Revenue Code], 1966,” the report said.

It further said, “Moreover, the same has been corroborated by other factors viz. admissions on the part of the MOD, absence of entry in respect of the land in question in the MLR (Military Land Register) maintained by the DEO (Defence Estate Officer) and the inaction on the part of the Army/MOD to assert their alleged right. The commission, therefore, holds that the land in question belongs to the GOM…”

Slams revenue officers

Though the commission concluded that the land belongs to the State, it refused to rely on the property card submitted by the State as evidence and slammed the Revenue Department officers for the “illegality” in issuing the same. It observed that the property card was prepared after allotting the land to Adarsh housing society.

“Normally that should have preceded the allotment order, but for reasons best known to the authority concerned, the allotment order was made first and then the survey and preparation of the property card was done. This was not only an irregularity but illegality on the part of the Revenue Officers concerned,” the report said.

“…it appears that that property card… was prepared to substantiate the allotment of the land in question in favour of the Adarsh CHS,” it said. The commission has so far recorded statements of 40 witnesses.

It said the land was in possession of the MoD since 1996 when an eco-park, named Khukari Park, was inaugurated there, but that “mere long standing possession of the land in question as claimed by the MOD, will not confer title upon them.”

“The evidence on record shows that sometime around 2004 the said garden was demolished by pulling down the compound wall and fencing around it as well as by cutting trees standing thereon. The Army, which claims to have been looking after the maintenance of the said garden, did not try to stop such a destructive act being done on the property which, according to them, was of their ownership… Is this conduct of inaction on the part of the Army in keeping with their claim of ownership? Certainly not,” the report said.

The commission noted that the Army was not dispossessed of Khukari Park by either the State or the Adarsh Society. “There appears discontinuance or relinquishment of possession of Khukari Park by the Army personnel concerned who were looking after it,” it said.

The commission has not recorded statements of the three former Chief Ministers — Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan — for the report on the title and reservation of the land.

“It appears that these Honourable Ministers have no personal knowledge about the ownership of the land in question and that they have relied upon the statements of the officers of the Secretariat in the concerned department, including the officers in their own Secretariat. Therefore, for the purposes of issues nos. 1 and 2, the evidence of the said Ministers would not have been useful and necessary,” it said.

The commission will decide next month about the dates when their evidence will be recorded.