Deposing for the second day before the Adarsh Commission on Monday, the former Maharashtra Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan, continued the blame game and put the responsibility of granting permissions to the society on the then Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, and senior bureaucrats. He said he signed the papers related to Adarsh “in good faith,” not knowing what was written in them, in the belief that senior bureaucrats had already closely scrutinised the issues.
“I was guided by the recommendations of the then Principal Secretary. All the details were to be seen by the department officials and hence I was not aware as to what I was signing, as to what were the detailed conditions of the Letter of Intent except for the fact which was the Principal Secretary’s note which mentions certain conditions,” Mr. Chavan, who was Revenue Minister when the proposal for granting Letter of Intent to the society was mooted, told the commission.
He also refused to answer a question whether he knew any members of the controversial Adarsh Housing Society. His mother-in-law and another relative own a flat in the society. His counsel argued that the term of reference pertaining to membership and liability of the politicians and bureaucrats was not to be taken up as it was not informed to him in advance.
Mr. Chavan has agreed to appear again before the commission for the examination of these two issues.
He admitted that during his tenure as Chief Minister, he considered granting additional floor space index of 15 per cent of the recreational ground area to the society.
Mr. Deshmukh had noted in his own handwriting on a letter proposing granting of LOI to the society. Mr. Chavan said the letters marked by the Chief Minister always got the highest priority.
“In this case also, the letter marked by the CM to me as the Revenue Minister states: ‘please process this and put [it] up.’ It is an indication of the intention of the CM and accordingly I had marked this to the Deputy Secretary to be put up immediately,” he told the commission.
Meanwhile, the commission quizzed him after he said he was not aware that the land where the society eventually came up was not an independent plot and was a part of the road-widening proposal of Captain Prakash Pethe Marg.
“Then the question arises [that] if the plot does not have an independent existence [and it] was not brought to your notice, what was the Letter of Intent intended for?” the commission asked him. He said he presumed that the department examined the facts before putting up the proposal before him.
Mr. Chavan said he acted as per the guidance of then Principal Secretary of the Revenue Department, Dr. D.K. Shankaran, who was expected to go through all the details.
“It would be rather difficult to accept that your own personal staff in Mantralaya did not bring to your notice the gist of all the notes, before you signed it,” the commission told Mr. Chavan, while asking about the notes on the proposal of granting a Letter of Intent to the society.
“It is expected that the Principal Secretary would have scrutinised all the details which have come from various officials and since it was a mere Letter of Intent that too positively recommended by the Principal Secretary, I have signed in good faith,” he said.
“Then what is the scope for discretion and application of mind by the Minister? Or is he expected to be solely guided by the notes put up before him?” the commission rapped him. He claimed that he had applied his mind and that he approved the conditional LOI recommended by the Principal Secretary.