The Adarsh housing scam took a new twist on Tuesday with the judicial commission appointed by the Maharashtra government saying the land in which the 31-storey cooperative housing society was located belonged to the state government, not the ministry of defence. The commission, comprising justice J A Patil (retired) and former chief secretary P Subrahmanyam, said there was no reservation for defence personnel or Kargil war heroes in the land, or in the membership of the Adarsh society.
The interim report regarding the two terms of reference tabled by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in the state assembly comes as a breath of fresh air to former chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan. During their terms, the government had provided various clearances for the Adarsh society and its undertakings. More importantly, for Ashok Chavan, who had to step down in November 2010, the interim report has given a new lease of life. This is because the commission clearly ruled there was no reservation for the kith and kin of Kargil war heroes in the Adarsh society.
The Congress party high command had asked Chavan to resign from the chief ministership after a heated campaign and debate that the government had simply dumped reservation for the wives of Kargil war heroes, and the membership was given to former army officials and politicians.
The interim report also comes at a time when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested nine people, including three state bureaucrats, in connection with Adarsh housing scam.
Former Maharashtra chief minister and Union minister of science & technology Vilasrao Deshmukh told Business Standard, "From day one, we have been saying the land belongs to the state government and accordingly, it was allotted to the society, according to the land dispersal rules of the government. So, with this report, I think our stand is totally vindicated. The ownership of the land and the question of whether there was any reservation for Kargil war widows --- this was the main contention on which the whole hype was created. Now, these two issues were very critical and these have been vindicated. The other issues are before the commission."
The commission, appointed by the state government through a notification on January 8 2011, said the ministry of defence had failed to establish its claim on the land. However, this was not so with the claim of the Maharashtra government. "Its claim stands established in view of the provisions of section 294 of the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966, which came into force on August 15, 1967, and there is no evidence to show on that date, the land in question was occupied by anybody."
The commission said the occupation of land by anybody had been corroborated by factors such as admission on the part of the ministry of defence, the absence of an entry in respect of the land in question in the Maharashtra Land Reveue Code, and inaction on the part of the Army and the ministry of defence to assert their alleged rights.
On the terms of reference on reservation for housing defence personnel or Kargil war widows, the commission referred to a submission by the Adarsh society's chief promoter R C Thakur that the society was proposed long before the Kargil war, and hence there was no question of the society being constructed for the purpose of Kargil war heroes. Thakur had said the Adarsh society was formed in 1994 and registered on September 28, 2004. Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, recently arrested by the CBI in connection with the Adarsh scam, had also stated in his affidavit of evidence there was no reservation for defence personnel or Kargil war heroes.
According to the commission, there was no government resolution or notification providing reservation for defence personnel or Kargil war heroes in the land. "In fact, at the time of the argument, the learned counsel for the ministry of defence, the government of Maharashtra or the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society uniformly submitted there was no such reservation. In view of this position, there is no difficulty in recording a negative finding on the terms of reference regarding reservation for defence personnel or Kargil was heroes," the commission said.