M A I N   N E W S

Jairam wants Adarsh to be pulled down in 3 months 
Vibha Sharma/Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Mumbai, January 16
In an order, expected to have considerable implications on the future of several buildings facing “green blues” in India’s ecologically critical coastal areas, the Environment Ministry on Sunday declared the Adarsh housing society in Mumbai “illegal” and ordered the demolition of the 31-storey controversial structure.

In a strongly worded order, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said the “unauthorised structure” should be removed for flouting Coastal Regulation Zone rules and the area must be restored to its original condition within three months.

The order, posted on the ministry website, says the Adarsh society violated the very spirit of CRZ Notification, 1991. The ministry noted that apart from complete demolition, it had two other options. One was the removal of that part of the structure which was in excess of the Floor Space Index (FSI) that might have been allowed had the requisite permission been sought from the appropriate authority. The other option was the government taking over the building for public use to be determined later.

Justifying its decision to demolish the entire structure, the ministry said: “Option II (of part removal) was rejected since this would have been tantamount to regularising or condoning an egregious violation of the CRZ notification, 1991. Option III was rejected because (i) even though the final use may be in the public interest, it would still be tantamount to regularising a violation of the CRZ norms. (ii) there would be substantial discretionary powers that would vest with the state or the Centre in case of a takeover.” 
The order asked the Adarsh Society to carry out the demolition on its own, failing which the Environment Ministry would have to enforce the decision under sections of the Environment Protection Act.

As of now there is no clarity on who will execute Ramesh’s orders. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority may be asked to demolish the society as it is the planning authority for the area where Adarsh is located.

The Environment Ministry had in November last year served a notice to the society, asking it why the illegal floors in the building should not be demolished. The building in Mumbai’s plush Colaba locality was originally meant to be a six-storey structure to house Kargil War heroes and their kin but was later extended to 31 floors allegedly without mandatory permission.

The scam cost former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan his chair and brought to surface collusion between bureaucrats, Army officials and politicians to corner flats in the building constructed on a prime plot in south Mumbai.

Admitting that it had not taken the ministry’s approval, the society had contended that CRZ regulations were applicable only for industrial projects requiring water front and offshore facilities.

However, immediate demolition of unauthorised construction is unlikely as Adarsh Housing Society will challenge the MoEF order in the Bombay High Court. Adarsh members have already said they would approach court for relief, thereby, indicating a long road before any action actually happens on the ground.

Congress leader Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, who is one of the office-bearers of the society, said they would move the courts to stall the demolition. The society has hired Satish Maneshinde, a high-profile lawyer, who has already challenged the decision of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to revoke the Occupation Certificate granted to the society in the Bombay High Court. “The minister had already made up his mind to demolish the building. The tenor of the order is completely mala fide,” Maneshinde told reporters shortly after the demolition order was issued.

RTI petitioner in the Adarsh case Simpreet singh welcomed the decision and said bureaucrats must act quickly and not delay its execution. “It should be ensured that no frivolous petitions are filed to get a stay on the demolition,” he said.

Another activist YP Singh said while the report is welcome, action should be taken against similar constructions all over Mumbai.

Activists also fear that the “overzealous” action may be an attempt to misguide the public because the main issue of filing an FIR was still pending. “Unless names of bigwigs are incorporated in the FIR, critical matters will get stifled,” they say.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Government said it was waiting to receive the order from the Environment Ministry before taking a decision. “We will take a decision upon formal receipt of the order,” state Environment Minister Sanjay Devtale told reporters today.

The Congress termed the MoEF’s decision as an example of the UPA Government’s determination and commitment to fight corruption.

The BJP welcomed the decision but wanted an inquiry ordered against Vilasrao Deshmukh for clearing the land in his tenure as Chief Minister of Maharashtra. “Now that the building has been declared illegal, the Maharashtra Government should punish those responsible for its construction,” Leader of the Opposition Eknath Khadse (BJP) in Maharashtra Assembly said.





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