Asking the Centre to take possession of the controversial Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society building in South Mumbai, the Supreme Court on Friday put on hold, for now, the demolition of the “illegally” constructed 31-storey apartments located next to defence installations. The Bombay High Court in April had ordered demolition of the scam-tainted Adarsh apartments and sought criminal proceedings against politicians and bureaucrats for “misuse” of powers to get plots under the scheme, originally meant for Kargil war heroes and war widows. A bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar while seeking response from the Centre and the Maharashtra government asked the Registrar General of Bombay High Court to ensure that either he, or a registrar nominated by him, oversee the handing over of possession of the building to the Director of Military Estate on or before August 5.
“We will secure the building and the land and there will be no demolition,” Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre assured the bench when the counsel for the Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society sought a stay on the April 29 demolition order of the HC. The apex court said an inventory of documents and records would be prepared under the supervision of the HC registrar before being handed over to the housing society. Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for the society, sought stay on the HC order, arguing that the building is “un-inhabitable” as the water and electricity supply have been cut. The HC after passing the demolition order in April had stayed it for 12 weeks to enable the Adarsh Society to file an appeal in the Supreme Court, despite the Maharashtra Government opposing it.
In its order, the division bench had asked the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest to carry out the demolition at the expense of petitioners (Adarsh Society). The Adarsh scam kicked up a huge political storm after it surfaced in 2010, leading to the resignation of the then Congress chief minister Ashok Chavan. In February this year, the Maharashtra Governor accorded sanction to the CBI to prosecute Chavan. In 2011, the state government had set up a two-member judicial commission headed by Justice J A Patil to inquire into the scam. After probing the issue for over two years, it submitted its report in 2013, which found that there had been 25 illegal allotments, including 22 purchases made by proxy.
Later, the CBI, the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also investigated the scam.
Even in January 2011, the MoEF had issued a demolition order mainly on the ground that the society did not have CRZ clearance. While Adarsh Society had filed a petition in 2011 challenging the demolition order issued by the environment ministry, the Defence Ministry sought execution of the order, besides filing a title suit claiming that it was the owner of the plot on which the plush Adarsh Society building stands in the heart of Mumbai.