Demolish Adarsh building in three months: Jairam Ramesh (Roundup)

January 16th, 2011 - 8:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi/Mumbai, Jan 16 (IANS) The Adarsh housing society scam took a dramatic turn Sunday when Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh ordered the demolition of the building in Mumbai within three months for Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violations. The society said it would challenge the order in court.The order concluded that the 31-storey structure at Block 6, Backbay Reclamation Area in Mumbai’s upscale Colaba area, is “unauthorised” and should be removed in its entirety and the area be restored to its original condition.

“In case the above directions are not complied within three months from the date of receipt of this order, the ministry will be constrained to enforce this direction, and undertake action under Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,” the 29-page order said.

The controversial highrise 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.

Under the CRZ, permission has to be sought for any construction in coastal areas. The ministry, in its order, concluded that Adarsh society had not obtained the necessary prior clearance.

According to the order, the ministry looked at three options - removal of the entire structure because it is unauthorised, removal of the excess part of the structure and government takeover of the building for public use.

The last two options were rejected as that would have been tantamount to regularising a violation of the CRZ Notification of 1991, it said.

“Therefore, in light of all the facts, circumstances, discussions, consideration, reasoning and analysis in the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society (ACHS) dossier, I have decided on option 1 (demolition),” said Environment Minister Ramesh in New Delhi.

“It is immaterial whether the Adarsh Society was aware of the requirement to seek clearance under Coastal Regulation Zone rules. Ignorance of law can never be an excuse for non-compliance,” he added.

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.

Adarsh society’s counsel Satish Maneshinde said the environment ministry’s decision had been made in a hurry and that they would move court against it.

“The tenor of the order is completely malafide and we challenge the demolition order,” Maneshinde said in Mumbai.

“To pass an order on a Sunday like this without even any legal precedence, I totally feel it is a malafide order and we challenge it as and when we get the copy of the order,” he said.

Asked about the legal options, Maneshinde said: “The first option is to approach the high court and society will decide the next course of action. I will advise them after seeing the copy of the order. It is premature to tell what we are going to do.”

State opposition leaders and activists in Mumbai welcomed the demolition order.

Madhav Bhandari, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson, said there are several other buildings that have flouted CRZ norms.

Shiv Sena legislator Subhash Desai, while welcoming the decision, voiced concern over whether “the order will really be followed.”

Activist Medha Patkar, whose NGO is among the petitioners against the Adarsh construction, said along with the demolition, land allotment rules also need to be amended to make them more powerful.

Maharashtra Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) A.N. Tiwari, who headed the state’s urban development department (UDD) during the Adarsh allocation period and is under suspension for the scam, Sunday said the file never came to him.

“I did clear a lot of files during my tenure at the UDD, but the decision to clear the land reservations and land transfers were taken by the state government and not by me,” he told reporters.

Tiwari’s son owns a flat in the 31-storey Adarsh building.

The Adarsh society building became the centre of a scam that claimed the job of former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan after allegations surfaced of collusion between bureaucrats and politicians to corner flats in the building constructed on a prime plot measuring nearly 6,500 sq metres in south Mumbai.

The society, in its Jan 4 hearing before the ministry, said the CRZ notification does not apply to their housing complex as the provisions of the notification expressly apply to the industrial processes and operations and not to the residential building.

The demolition order, however, is being claimed as a big victory for activists, lawyers and socially conscious people who helped expose the magnitude of the scam.

With the names of many senior party leaders getting linked to the scam, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had sent union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A.K. Antony to Mumbai in October last year to probe the issue.

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