Commission report has no legal sanctity, says advocate

The Defence Ministry will challenge a judicial commission's findings on ownership of the plot of land where the controversial Adarsh Housing Society here was constructed.

The two-member commission has concluded that though the Ministry was in possession of the land, the owner is the Maharashtra government.

(The origins of the Adarsh Housing Society scam go back to February 2000. Though the housing complex was meant for serving and retired defence personnel, over 10 years top politicians, bureaucrats and military officers bent rules, committed acts of omission and commission and had flats allotted to themselves in this premier property at artificially lowered prices.)

“The Defence Ministry will file a civil suit in the Supreme Court for the title of the land,” advocate Aniket Nikam confirmed to The Hindu on Tuesday. He belongs to a group of advocates who represented the Ministry during the proceedings before the commission.

“This report has no legal sanctity. It holds only symbolic value,” said another advocate who did not wish to be named.

The commission has itself admitted, in its report, that its findings on title and reservation of land are not final and that the issues can be conclusively determined by a competent court.

The commission has said its report “is not a judgment but only a fact-finding report and the conclusions drawn by it are not binding upon the appropriate government which may or may not accept the same.”

Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Investigation has said the report will not impact its case. “Our investigation will continue. We are anyway not looking into the possession and ownership of land. Our case is about flouting of norms, misuse of official position, corruption, forgery,” a senior CBI officer told The Hindu on condition of anonymity.

Anyway criminal courts were not bound by any report of an inquiry commission, he said.

The CBI has already arrested nine persons including top bureaucrats and retired army officers for their role in the scam. It has so far mentioned the name of the former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan in the First Information Report. He has been accused of entering into a criminal conspiracy with the other accused and of granting permission to the Adarsh society in return for flats for his relatives.

He was Revenue Minister and then Chief Minister when the Adarsh society files were cleared.

The CBI has also questioned two other former Chief Ministers, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushi Kumar Shinde.

Mr. Deshmukh sanctioned the proposal for the Adarsh society. He has, however, denied charges of falsifying records or giving the society any favours in granting permission.

Even Mr. Shinde, who allegedly accepted the then Revenue Minister, Ashok Chavan's proposal of allotting flats to non-Army members, has washed his hands of the controversy. During his tenure as Chief Minister, the government granted many clearances to the society.