Says he didn’t know Adarsh Society was for defence personnel

The former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan, on Saturday passed the buck to Union Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh for granting permission to the Adarsh housing society. He said it was Mr. Deshmukh, as the then Chief Minister, who allotted government land here, irrespective of the land valuation.

Mr. Chavan was the Revenue Minister when the process of issuing the Letter of Intent for granting land to the Society was initiated under the chief ministership of Mr. Deshmukh.

Mr. Chavan also dragged the Finance Ministry in the matter, saying no land allotment proposal could be sanctioned without the concurrence of the Finance Department.

Jayant Patil was then the Finance Minister and the two-member Commission set up by the government to go into the housing society scam, recently sent him a notice asking him to furnish an affidavit in the matter by July 6.

Mr. Chavan said that neither the Society nor senior bureaucrats ever brought to his notice that the Society was reserved for defence personnel.

He said he also did not know of the proposal of inclusion of 40 per cent civilian membership in the Society, whereas the Society wrote to him on June 2, 2000, stating that they were agreeable to include 40 per cent civilians in it.

Wrong facts

The letter in which the Society stated this, and on which he not only signed, but remarked in his handwriting, gave out many “wrong facts,” Mr. Chavan alleged before the Commission on Saturday.

“I would like to add with reference to this letter [written by the Society to Mr. Chavan on June 2, 2000] that two instances of wrong facts have been mentioned in this letter,” he said adding that the Society gave wrong information about the applicability of Coastal Zone Regulation.

“The Society wrote in the letter, ‘since there is a large building next to the proposed land, towards the sea-side, there is no question of any CRZ issue cropping up in its development.’ Whereas the fact is that in the conditional Letter of Intent, the Principal Secretary has mentioned that the land falls under CRZ-II category,” Mr. Chavan said.

Talking about the second “wrong fact,” he said: “The Society had said that it was prepared to leave 10 to 15 feet land for road-widening, if required. But it stated in the letter that since the area falls in the vicinity of the military area, there seems to be no proposal for road-widening. This was contrary to facts.”

‘Met sans appointment’

Mr. Chavan said that the Society members once met him in his office along with then Member of Legislative Council Kanhaiyalal Gidwani on June 2, 2000, without any prior appointment. “They met me without an appointment to discuss the status of the Society’s proposal, which was then pending with the CM for more than four months.”

On the same day, the Society wrote him a letter accepting his suggestion of giving membership to 40 per cent civilians in the Society.

Talking about his meeting with the Society members on that date, he said: “I was not informed in the said meeting as to the details of the proposal submitted to the CM. They did not inform me that the land was required for a cooperative housing society for the welfare of serving and retired persons from the defence services. There was no discussion about accommodating civilian members in the Society in that meeting or in any other meeting.”

Asked why then, he did not object to the Society writing to him that they are agreeable to his suggestion, he said he did not read the letter. Interestingly, he had directed the Joint Secretary to follow-up the matter by remarking in his own handwriting on the same letter. “I thought it was a follow-up letter,” he told the Commission.

He also claimed to have “never seen” another letter that the Society’s chief promoter wrote to him on January 13, 2000, stating that the possession of the land was with the local Army unit.

“I did not know that the land was in possession of the local Army unit and that a park named Kukari Park was there at the place. I was not aware that the land did not have a survey number or a property card,” he said.

Commission member P. Subramanyam asked him if it would be right to say that he did not see a letter in the correspondence that was sent to him, since no one specifically brought it to his notice. He said that the Ministry processed a large number of files every day, which made it difficult for the Minister to go through each and every page.

Recording of his statement will continue on July 2.