Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan whose relatives owned flats in a controversial housing society in south Mumbai said on Friday that news reports in the past few days were politically motivated.
However, after the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a clarification on Thursday, Mr. Chavan has revoked the occupation certificate granted to the Adarsh cooperative housing society.
Two of his relatives who owned flats in the building resigned from the society and demanded a refund of the sum they paid for the flats, he said. The main issue is the matter raised by the Ministry, which said on Thursday that it did not give any no-objection certificate for the building.
Mr. Chavan said: “We will refer the matter to the Ministry for clearance soon, and because of this we have revoked the occupation certificate…till the matter is scrutinised by the Ministry and settled.”
Talking to journalists, Mr. Chavan said he was not going to elaborate on or pinpoint who was behind this “politically motivated” news reports, but said their intentions were different.
Asked whether the building would be demolished, since under the Coastal Regulation Zone rules there could be no regularisation of buildings, he said he was not aware of the rules and he would send a report to the Ministry.
Mr. Chavan said the controversy over the building, in which several politicians and IAS officials owned flats, was not an embarrassment to the government. “The facts are before us,” he said. “Why should I resign?” he asked, in response to a direct question.
He said his mother-in-law who owned one of the flats passed away, and there was no nominee. None of his relatives was in actual possession of the flats, he reiterated. He clarified that his family comprised his wife and children, and they did not own any flat in the building. He said he did not know whether his distant relatives had applied for a flat. “I have no relatives who have taken possession of flats in the Adarsh society.” He said two flats belonged to Seema Sharma and Madanlal Sharma, who were his relatives, and they resigned from the society as they lost interest in the flats and in being members of the society. They are his mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law.
“I have neither misused my powers, nor has the high command asked me to explain,” he said.
Mr. Chavan said three persons connected to the Kargil war had been allotted flats. Of the 102 members of the society, 37 were from the defence forces (two served in the Kargil war and one was a nominee of a defence person). “I had no role in getting civilians into the society. The society has the right to choose members, and the Collector has to approve the list of members. The files did not come to me, and I have never suggested which members should be taken.”
He clarified that the land given to the society belonged to the government, and it was given as per the July 9, 1999 resolution of the Revenue Department. The society made the plea for the land on September 21, 1999, and in 2004 the land was allotted to the society.
He said he was not the Revenue Minister during this period, and right from the period when the letter of intent was issued till the letter of allotment was sent, “I am not involved, I am categorical about this,” he said. As per the records of March 29, 2000, the land was under the control of the Defence Ministry, but not within the defence area. The part of land on which the society building was constructed was out of the defence area.
He said this piece of land was not reserved for the widows of the personnel who died in the Kargil war.
The Mumbai Collector asked the General Officer Commanding for Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa for a no-objection certificate in March 2000. The GOC wrote back on April 5, 2000, saying this was outside the defence land. “It is clear that the land was in unauthorised possession of the defence authorities.”
He welcomed the Centre's decision to hold a probe and said the CBI inquiry would clear things up. “There are no norms for including names, and maybe we need to rethink the policy on this matter,” he admitted after being told that at least 16 government officers who cleared the files for the project had flats in the society.
At no point was any meeting held between him and the promoters, Mr. Chavan said, and the occupation certificate (OC), given by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, was not routed through him.