Adarsh Housing Society scam

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Coordinates: 18°54′33″N 72°49′00″E / 18.9093°N 72.8167°E / 18.9093; 72.8167

Adarsh Housing.
Adarsh Housing Society in July 2011.

The Adarsh Housing Society is a posh, 31 storey building constructed on prime real estate in Colaba, Mumbai, allegedly for the welfare of war widows and personnel of India’s Ministry of Defence. Over a period of several years, politicians, bureaucrats and military officers conspired to bend several rules concerning land ownership, zoning, floor space index and membership get themselves flats allotted in this cooperative society at below-market rates.[1][2]

The scam was unearthed in November 2010 which forced the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan, to resign.[3]

In 2011, a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said, "The episode of Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society reveals how a group of select officials, placed in key posts, could subvert rules and regulations in order to grab prime government land - a public property - for personal benefit."[4]

In January 2011, the Maharashtra government set up a two-member judicial commission to inquire into the matter. The commission was headed by retired High Court judge Justice J A Patil, with N N Kumbhar acting as member secretary. After deposing 182 witnesses over 2 years, the commission submitted its final report in April 2013 to the Maharashtra government. The report highlighted 25 illegal allotments, including 22 purchases made by proxy.[5] The report also indicted four former chief ministers of Maharashtra: Ashok Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Shivajirao Nilangekar Patil, 2 former urban development ministers: Rajesh Tope and Sunil Tatkare and 12 top bureaucrats for various illegal acts. The allottees included Devyani Khobragade.[6][7]

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are currently investigating allegations that three former chief ministers of Maharashtra - Sushilkumar Shinde, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan - were involved in the scam.[8][9]

Alleged violations[edit]

The Adarsh Society high-rise was constructed in the Colaba locality of Mumbai. This is considered a sensitive coastal area by the Indian Defence forces and is the location of various Indian defence establishments.[10] The society is also alleged to have violated Indian environment ministry rules.[11]

The scam is notable for the fact that it was enacted over a period of ten years and required the active involvement of successive officials in many crucial posts. Rules and regulations across many departments and ministries, both at the Centre and the state of Maharashtra, were flouted or bent to allow for the construction of the building. Some of the more blatant transgressions included: obtaining a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Army towards construction of the building in a sensitive zone, getting the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) development plan modified, and obtaining another NOC for residential development in a Coastal Regulation Zone, often through manipulation of records and misrepresentation of facts. Efforts by honest officers to bring this to the notice of top officials were ignored.[12]

The issue was first raised in a newspaper report in 2003 but did not evoke any official reaction.[13] In 2010, it was again raised by various newspapers and TV channels. Questions were raised about the manner in which apartments in the building were allocated to bureaucrats, politicians and army personnel who had nothing to do with the Kargil War and the way in which clearances were obtained for the construction of the building of the Adarsh Society.[14][15] It had led to the resignation of the then Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan.[16] Some of the current allottees of the flats in the Adarsh co-operative society building have offered to return their flats, denying allegations that they were allotted flats because they influenced or helped, in some manner, the construction of the society by violating the rules.[17]

In an interview to The Hindu published on 26 March 2012, General VK Singh, the Chief of Army Staff ascribed many of the attempts to malign him during his tenure to, amongst others, those he described as "the Adarsh lobby", those directly connected to the scam, as well as those who were affected by his efforts to rid the army of corruption.[18]

Current state of investigation[edit]

Several inquiries have been ordered by the army and the Government to probe into the irregularities.[19]

Bombay High Court monitoring of CBI investigation[edit]

There was a spate of petitions filed in Bombay High Court seeking to monitor CBI investigation. The petitions are Criminal PIL No. 34 of 2010 by former Journalist Ketan Tirodkar, Criminal Writ Petition No. 3359 of 2010 by Simpreet Singh and Criminal PIL No. 36 of 2010 by Mahendra Singh. Ref. Bombay High Court order dated 17th Feb. 2011 [1]. By this order High Court asked CBI to amend the F.I.R. by adding Benami Properties Transaction Act section 4. Also, the High Court transferred the missing filed probe from Mumbai Police to CBI. Praveen Wategaonkar filed Criminal PIL later seeking invoking of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) into the case. So it has been invoked and Enforcement Directorate came into picture.[20][21]

Reacting to these petitions and based on the slow pace of the investigation in the last two years, Bombay High Court severely castigated Enforcement Directorate for its failure to initiate any probe in the matter on 28 February 2012. Expressing its unhappiness the court observed, "It is unfortunate that ED has remained a mute spectator. There is a serious lapse on the agency's part for not probing into money laundering offence. ED has not moved an inch. It reflects a sorry state of affairs. We are summoning the director as there has been no assistance from his department to the court." The Court also rapped the CBI for the tardiness in its investigations (begun in January 2011).[20][22][23] The High Court, again on 12 March 2012, severely castigated the CBI for not arresting any of the accused in spite of having evidence and ordered it to take action without fear or favour.[21][24] ED having registered a case under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, has decided to launch attachment proceedings of the flats after going through the latest chargesheet filed by CBI.[25]

Arrests[edit]

Following the Court's criticism, the CBI carried out eight arrests including two retired Major Generals TK Kaul and AR Kumar, retired brigadier MM Wanchoo, former General Officer Commanding(GOC) of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa, Adarsh promoter Kanhaiyalal Gidwani and Pradeep Vyas, the then city collector and currently, finance secretary (expenditure) in the Govt. of Maharashtra. Accordingly on 22 March 2012, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan announced in the legislative assembly that the two IAS officers whose names have figured in the scam, Pradeep Vyas and Jairaj Phatak have been suspended from government service.[26][27]

According to newspaper reports, many of the arrested hold more than one flat in the society in fictitious names. Former Congress MLC Kanhaiyalal Gidwani was reported to have as many as ten flats, which he had bought on behalf of top politicians.[28] Gidwani and his son had been earlier arrested on 6 March 2012, by the CBI for trying to influence CBI officials investigating their alleged involvement in the Adarsh scam. In a further twist to the case, the CBI officers arrested their own lawyers, J K Jagiasi and Mandar Goswami. Jagiasi allegedly asked an Air India (AI) official, one of the accused in the case, to pay a bribe of Rs 5 million in exchange for diluting charges levelled against him. The petty cash books maintained by Jagiasi helped unearth the conspiracy. In addition, Rs 2.5 million was allegedly paid to Goswami. He was the Special Counsel in the Ministry of Law and Justice and at present is working as Retainer Counsel for CBI. According to CBI sources, the tainted AI official approached the CBI for dilution of the case filed against him.[29]

Jairaj Phatak and Ramanand Tiwari were arrested by the CBI on 3 April 2012, for their alleged involvement in receiving illegal gratification in the Adarsh Housing Society Scam.[30]

Bail[edit]

On 29 May 2012, a special CBI court granted bail to seven of the nine arrested accused in the Adarsh scam since the CBI failed to file a chargesheet within the stipulated 60 days from the time it took them in custody. Those granted bail include Maj. Gen. (Retired-retd) A. R. Kumar, Maj. Gen. (retd) T. K. Kaul, Brig. (retd) M. M. Wanchu, IAS officer and former Mumbai district collector Pradeep Vyas, former Defence Estate officer R. C. Thakur, IAS officer P. V. Deshmukh and former Congress member of the Legislative Council Kanhaiyalal Gidwani (the chief promoter of Adarsh). The bail was set at ₹500,000 rupees (US$7,700). They have been directed to attend the CBI office every Tuesday and Thursday between 10 am and 12 pm. The court also told the accused to deposit their passports and not tamper with evidence.[31]

Role of Maharastra Governer K Sankaranarayanan[edit]

In spite of CBI having a strong 'quid pro quo' case against ex Maharastra CM Ashok Chavan, Maharastra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan refused to grant permission to prosecute Chavan. [32]

Inquiry by a Judicial Commission[edit]

On 9 January 2011, Government of Maharashtra appointed a two-member judicial commission, under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952,[33] to investigate alleged irregularities and corruption. It was decided that the commission would be led by a retired Bombay High Court judge JA Patil[34] while former State Chief Secretary P Subramanian would be the member.

The Commission's terms of reference were to investigate all aspects, including land ownership and allotment, permissions given to Adarsh. The Commission was given three months' time to complete the investigation.[35]

On 27 June 2012, while deposing before the two member panel probing the scam, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Union Minister and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra contended that land was allotted to the housing society after getting clearance from the Revenue Department, passing the buck to his successor, Ashok Chavan who headed the department then.[36]

Report[edit]

Adarsh not a saga of ideal cooperation but a shameless tale of blatant violations of statutory provisions, rules and regulations. It reflects greed, nepotism and favoritism on the part of some people.

Justice JA Patil and P Subramanian Commission report[7]

Role of Maharastra state cabinet led by Prithviraj Chavan[edit]

[37] In April 2013, the commission submitted its final report to the Government of Maharashtra but it refused to table it in the assembly.Government of Maharashtra deliberately adopted delay tactics and it was only after queries from the Bombay High Court that the Government tabled the report purposely on the very last day of Assembly's Winter Session in December 2013 so that the Adarsh report cannot be discussed in the Winter session of 2013. The report that was tabled was conveniently rejected the Maharashtra Cabinet led by Prithviraj Chavan.[7]

The report indicted 4 former chief ministers: Ashok Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Shivajirao Nilangekar Patil, 2 former urban development ministers: Rajesh Tope and Sunil Tatkare and 12 top bureaucrats.[6] The report said Ashok Chavan and other bureaucrats gave permissions and clearances in exchange for flats. It found 25 of the society's 102 members ineligible. The report also said Adarsh enjoyed the "political patronage" of Late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Chavan, Sunil Tatkare and Rajesh Tope. The report revealed that 22 benami transactions took place and that the Adarsh society never sought any environmental clearances.[38] The report mentioned that Devyani Khobragade (who was in the news for a visa fraud allegation by United States Government around the same time the report was released), was an illegal beneficiary of a flat allotted to her.[39]

After Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi publicly disapproved of Maharashtra cabinet's decision to reject judicial report, Prithviraj Chavan convened a cabinet meet to review the decision. The report was partially accepted by the state cabinet. It was decided that the 12 officials named in the report will face departmental inquiry for violating the service conduct rules but appeared going soft on politicians named by the commission for political patronage.The cabinet has also decided to initiate proceedings against 22 benami transactions, adding the commission had recommended action against allottees of such flats as they were found to be in violation of the Benami Transactions Prohibition Act.

CBI special court rejects CBI plea[edit]

Governor of Maharashtra K. Sankaranarayan; in a latest development rejected the proposal of Central Bureau of Investigations to grant sanction to prosecute former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan for having favoured Adarsh Society by way of allotment of additional Floor Space Index [F.S.I.] illegally. It is stated in the C.B.I. proposal that Mr. Chavan grabbed two apartments in the tainted society for these illegal decisions. Acitivist Ketan Tirodkar moved Bombay High Court seeking direction to C.B.I. to proceed against Ashok Chavan without sanction on the basis of Supreme Court Judgement stating that sanction to prosecute is not required in cases that are monitored by Court.[Application 27 of 2013 in Cr.PIL 34 of 2010]. The application states that Governor Mr. Sankarnarayan was Union Minister with father of Ashok Chavan and Ashok met governor on later's birth-day 15 October; 2013; at Raj Bhavan; official residence of the Governor. This meet lasted for an hour; as stated in the application after which Governor rejected the CBI plea of sanction. The application in High Court seeks direction to CBI to proceed with prosecution of Ashok Chavan & Governor. [2][3] CBI, acting like a caged parrot, conveniently ignored the Supreme Court judgement on the aspect of Sanction to Prosecute being Not Required in cases monitored by Court; and moved the Special CBI court to drop Mr. Ashok Chavan from the process of prosecution.[40] However the special court rejected the CBI’s plea to drop his name from the list of accused in the Adarsh scam case.Special CBI court observed even though governor K Sankaranarayanan had rejected CBI's plea for sanction to prosecute Chavan, he could still be tried under the Prevention of Corruption act as he has been accused of criminal misconduct.Special CBI Public Prosecutor Bharat Badami himself admitted in the court that the CBI would be "very happy" to prosecute the former chief minister but "our hands are tied".[41] Another Public Interest Litigation has been moved by activist Ketan Tirodkar seeking to prosecute State Cabinet for having rejected Judicial COmmission findings pertaining to Adarsh housing scam.[4].

Issues[edit]

Adarsh Housing Society has defended its actions as similar to other housing societies such as Samata, "Nyay Sagar" & likes in which "serving and retired judges already owned homes in Mumbai but transferred these in names of their children to become eligible for apartments in Samata & Nyay Sagar.".[42] Also, Nyay Sagar Society is constructed upon a plot of land reserved for Housing the Dishoused.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Criminal conspiracy in Mumbai highrise, Army officers could be involved: Defence probe". Press Trust of India (Indian Express). Oct 29, 2010. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  2. ^ Neha Thirani (April 2, 2012). "A Brief History of Corruption in the Ministry of Defense". New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  3. ^ Malavika Vyawahare (June 26, 2012). "Corruption Allegations Prompt Slew of Political Resignations in India". New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society, Mumbai". Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "Adarsh Housing scam commission submits its final report". Press Trust of India (NDTV). April 19, 2013. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Adarsh panel indicts four Maharashtra ex-CMs". The Times Of India. 21 December 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c "Maharashtra Govt Rejects Adarsh Scam Report". 20 December 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
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  9. ^ "Adarsh Society scam: Where are the Kargil martyrs in the allottees?". NDTV. 30 October 2010. Archived from the original on 16 March 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
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  11. ^ Pachouly, Manish (9 November 2010). "‘Didn’t give eco clearance’". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 15 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010. 
  12. ^ Deshpande, Alok (22 November 2011). "Seniors diluted my objections to Adarsh housing society: Saurav Ray". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Halarnkar, Samar (3 August 2003). "Officer in CBI net ropes big fish for prime Mumbai plot". The Indian Express. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  14. ^ "Gen Vij favours probe into Adarsh housing society scam". Deccan Herald. PTI. 30 October 2010. Archived from the original on 15 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010. 
  15. ^ "Chavan asked Adarsh society to change bye-laws: Deshmukh". The Hindu (Chennai, India). PTI. 1 November 2010. Archived from the original on 15 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010. 
  16. ^ Menon, Vinod Kumar (31 October 2010). "'Adarsh housing controversy is just tip of the nexus iceberg'". MiD DAY. Archived from the original on 15 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010. 
  17. ^ "I have returned the Adarsh flat, says former Navy chief". The Times of India. PTI. 31 October 2010. Archived from the original on 15 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010. 
  18. ^ Subramanium, Vidya (1 April 2012). "Sack the general, did you say?". The Hindu (Chennai, India). Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  19. ^ "Adarsh Society: Army setting up court of inquiry". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 1 November 2010. Archived from the original on 15 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010. 
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  21. ^ a b "Bombay High court order on 28 Feb 2012". Bombay High Court. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  22. ^ "Adarsh scam probe: Bombay HC pulls up ED". Zee News. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  23. ^ "Adarsh housing scam: Bombay HC slams ED, CBI, warns of forming SIT". Times of India. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  24. ^ "Why no arrests in Adarsh scam, court asks CBI". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 12 March 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  25. ^ "ED to attach Adarsh assets". 10 July 2012. 
  26. ^ "Adarsh Scam: CBI Arrests Retd Brigadier, 3 Others". outlook India. 20 March 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  27. ^ "Adarsh Scam: IAS Officer, 2 Retd Maj Generals Arrested". outlook India. 21 March 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  28. ^ Raja, Aditi (28 March 2012). "CBI probe reveals former Cong minister owns 10 flats in Adarsh". India Today. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  29. ^ "Adarsh Scam: CBI Arrests Own Lawyer, Ex-Cong MLC". 6 March 2012. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  30. ^ "Jairaj Phatak & Ramanand Tiwari Arrested by CBI". 3 April 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  31. ^ "Seven get bail in Adarsh scam". MSN India. Retrieved 30 May 2012. 
  32. ^ "Maharashtra governor bails out Ashok Chavan in Adarsh case". The Times Of India. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
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  34. ^ "Profile of J.A. Patil at High Court of Bombay". High Court of Bombay. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
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  37. ^ "We knew Adarsh report will be rejected: Justice Patil". The Times Of India. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013. 
  38. ^ "panel report slams former chief minister Ashok Chavan". 20 December 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  39. ^ "Adarsh Scam: Khobragade Among Illegal Beneficiaries". 20 December 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
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  42. ^ Adarsh has a defence, there are so many like us - Indian Express