The unauthorised structure built... should be removed in its entirety and the area should be restored to its original condition, the ministry said in its order publicised on its website on Sunday.
Jairam said he discounted the other two potential options government takeover of the building, or demolition of that part of the structure in excess of the prescribed FSI (floor space index) limits because while the first option would have given substantial discretionary power to the government, the second option would have meant regularising or condoning violations of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 1991.
The fact that there may well be other cases or similar violations provides no grounds for mitigation of the penalty attracted by such an egregious violation as that by ACHS, Jairam said in a signed note on the website. ACHS has violated the very spirit of CRZ Notification, 1991 by not even acknowledging the need for clearance under this notification. Whether they were aware of such requirement is immaterial as ignorance of law can never be an excuse for non-compliance, he added.
The Society has been asked to remove the structure on its own within three months failing which the environment ministry will be constrained to enforce this direction and undertake action under sections of the Environment Protection Act.
However, notwithstanding the ministrys direction, the implementation of the order will have to await the ruling of the Bombay High Court where the Adarsh Society has filed a petition against the governments action.
The ministrys order is based on the report of a panel led by Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Division advisor Dr Nalini Bhat, who, after hearing the Societys oral arguments and examining the written arguments, concluded that the entire project was unauthorised as the Society had not obtained the necessary prior clearance under the CRZ Notifications and recommended that the project be removed in entirety.
Based on Bhats recommendations, Bharat Bhushan, a director in the ministry, issued directions to this effect to the Society on January 14, which was made public under Jairams signed statement on his ministrys website on Sunday.
On November 12 last year, the environment ministry had issued a showcause notice to the Society asking why the building should not be demolished for violating environment norms. In its written submission, the Society demanded an immediate end to proceedings against it, insisting that it had got all the required clearances.
During the hearing held on January 4, the Society questioned the applicability of the CRZ Notifications under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and also asserted that the housing project did not violate the stipulated FSI norms.