He didn’t know Adarsh society claimed land was in its possession even before allotment

Pleading ignorance, the former Maharashtra Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, on Tuesday told the Adarsh judicial commission that he didn’t know that the land on which the housing society was to come up here was in the possession of the local Army unit; nor did he know that the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society had claimed it was already in possession of the land before the State government made the allotment.Mr. Deshmukh said he sought expeditious action on the Adarsh land allotment request letter after the former MLC, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, approached him saying the matter had been pending for more than five months. Mr. Gidwani is one of the 14 accused who are now under CBI investigation.

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

When he was shown letters, written by Mr. Gidwani, which brazenly stated the possession of the land was already with the society, Mr. Deshmukh said: “I didn’t read the statement made in this letter to the effect that the society was already in possession of the land in question.”

He said he either didn’t read the letters on which he remarked, in his handwriting, ‘expedite the process’, or that no one brought the anomalies to his notice. “I only read the subject,” he told the two-member commission on his first day of deposition before it.When Dipan Merchant, senior counsel for the Adarsh commission, asked Mr. Deshmukh “Why did you write ‘please expedite’?” Mr. Deshmukh said it was his practice to write “immediately” on such letters.

But this statement is in contrast to what a senior bureaucrat told the commission last year. Chandrashekhar Oak, then Under Secretary of the Revenue and Forest Department, in his deposition, said it wasn’t the usual practice of Mr. Deshmukh to mark any file ‘tatkal’ (immediate).

Mr. Deshmukh was also questioned regarding the width of Prakash Pethe Marg, adjacent to which lies the Adarsh society. He said he didn’t know that Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation had protested to the reduction of the road width.

When the width was supposed to be 18.40 metres, how did it end up at 10.30 metres, the commission asked Mr. Deshmukh.

“During physical inspection in 2011, we found that the width of the road was 10.30 metres. What exactly happened? Does it mean that the situation on the ground was different from what was stated in the government notification?” asked commission member P. Subramanium.

Mr. Deshmukh said he wasn’t aware of it. His deposition will continue on Wednesday.

Mr. Deshmukh handled Urban Development Ministry during both his stints as Chief Minister (October 18, 1999-January 16, 2003 and November 1, 2004- December 4, 2008).

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