Adarsh Housing Society is a 31-storey apartment complex built in Mumbai's Colaba. The building should have originally housed war heroes and war widows of 1999 Kargil war. However, the occupants of the complex ended up being bureaucrats and relatives of politicians who were not at all connected with the Kargil war.
Adarsh scam unearthed
The issue had been in the news since 2003 but the probe began only in 2010, following which the Army and CBI launched separate probes. What, at first, appeared as a misuse of granted land, turned murkier as the revelations of the probe grew. It was found that the Navy had objected to the Maharashtra government according permission for Occupation Certificates citing “serious security concerns” as the 100-metre tall building stood next to a planned helipad and military installations. It was also found that the society didn’t obtain a NoC from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and above all the society had permission to build only six floors. When benami transactions were unearthed, the Enforcement Directorate joined the probe.
In the building, which was originally meant to be a six-storey building, the apartments were mostly registered in the names of proxy owners. The CBI registered an FIR in 2013. 14 people were charged, including the then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, for criminal conspiracy under IPC Section 120 (b) and various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Congress, which was in power in the state, made Chavan resign from office.
In 2011, the Maharashtra government set up a two-member judicial team to probe the allegations. In 2013, the team revealed 25 illegal allotments in its findings, including 22 purchases made by proxy.
On July 4, 2012, the central agency filed its first chargesheet in the case before a special CBI court. During the course of the investigation, it came to light that the society did not have environmental clearance. The Bombay High Court had ordered demolition of the apartments and sought initiation of criminal proceedings against politicians and bureaucrats for alleged misuse of powers, holding that the tower was illegally constructed. It had asked the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest to carry out the demolition at the expense of Adarsh Society.
Ashok Chavan's trouble mounts
The then Maharashtra CM's relatives, including his mother-in-law, allegedly owned three flats in Adarsh Housing Society. Details obtained through RTI said Chavan approved the sale of 40 per cent of the houses to civilians.
Chavan’s prosecution had been a point of contention in the case. In December 2013, Maharashtra Governor at the time, K Sankaranarayanan, refused to grant permission to prosecute Chavan. However, a Sessions court later refused to omit his name as an accused in the case. The court’s order was backed by the Bombay HC in 2015.
In 2016, Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao granted the CBI permission to prosecute Chavan. Chavan, however, moved the Bombay HC challenging this order.
On December 22, 2017, the Bombay HC ruled against Chavan being prosecuted in the case, overturning the Governor’s decision.
Arrests made in Adarsh scam so far
In 2012, the CBI arrested Pradeep Vyas, Secretary (Expenditure) of the Finance Department of the Maharashtra government, making him the first serving bureaucrat to be arrested. Twelve bureaucrats and Chavan were named in the CBI’s chargesheet. Nine of them — Jairaj Phatak, Ramanand Tiwari, TK Kaul, A R Kumar, M M Wanchoo, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, JK Jagiasi and Mandar Goswami — have been arrested so far.
Bombay HC orders demolition of Adarsh building
In 2016, the court ordered the building to be demolished holding that it was illegally constructed. However, the society appealed to the Supreme Court, which in 2018 ordered a stay on the demolition. On the orders of the supreme court, the Indian army has secured the building.