Mumbai: On the second day of his deposition before a panel probing the Adarsh scam, Union Minister and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh today said that the land was allotted to the housing society only after getting a go-ahead from the Revenue department, practically pinning the blame on his successor Ashok Chavan who headed the department at the time.
Appearing before the judicial panel, Mr Deshmukh said that the final file pertaining to the Adarsh building came to him after being cleared by the Revenue Department, which he subsequently signed on. "Once a file seeking allotment of government land is submitted to the Chief Minister's office, the principal secretary to the CM sees if the proposal has been approved by the revenue minister. If the file is positive and there is no difference of opinion between the revenue minister and other officers then the secretary briefs the CM and approval is given," he said before the panel.
Mr Deshmukh, during his tenure as Maharashtra Chief Minister from October 1999 to January 2003 and from November 2004 to December 2008, had issued a Letter of Intent (LOI) in favour of allotting government land to Adarsh society. Land was earmarked for it by reducing a public road and building rights from an adjoining bus depot was transferred to the Adarsh Society during his tenure. Defending the allotment, the Union Minister said, "Nobody advised me on conversion of land use."
The former chief minister, during the questioning, said that all objections raised by town planning agencies over the controversial high-rise were not brought to his notice and were dealt with by the concerned departments.
On being asked about the land - on which the structure stands - being in possession of the Army foe the last 30 years, Mr Deshmukh, in his defence, said that he was not informed by the revenue department.
Mr Deshmukh is the second former Chief Minister after Sushil Kumar Shinde to appear before the commission. Like his successor, Mr Shinde had, on Monday, told the enquiry commission that the responsibility of checking facts and verifying details in files lay with bureaucrats and other departments.
After Mr Shinde and Mr Deshmukh, former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan will appear before the commission by the end of this month - June 30. Mr Chavan is the only former Chief Minister to have been made an accused by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which has registered a First Information Report (FIR) against 14 people and is also investigating the scam. The Enforcement Directorate is conducting a preliminary enquiry against Mr Chavan and 13 others for alleged money laundering in case. Mr Chavan was Chief Minister of Maharashtra from December 8, 2008 to November 9, 2010.
The CBI which will file a chargesheet in the case soon has alleged in the FIR that in 2000, as Revenue Minister, Mr Chavan cleared the inclusion of civilians into a building meant for Defence personnel. In exchange, three of his relatives allegedly got flats. Later Mr Chavan also granted building concessions by changing the area's development plan.
The Adarsh Society housing scam was exposed in 2010 when it emerged that an illegal 104-apartment society had come up on a prime plot in South Mumbai, where key defence personnel, bureaucrats, and politicians owned flats. It later emerged that some of them had colluded to grab a defence plot and got an illegal environmental clearance. It also got other concessions by claiming Kargil war heroes and widows were part of the society.