Adarsh Scam: Chavan Blames Deshmukh Again

Adarsh Scam: Chavan Blames Deshmukh Again
Former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, named an accused in the Adarsh housing society scam, today continued pointing fingers at his predecessor and Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh for decisions taken while allotting land to the controversial housing society.

Chavan, who was revenue minister during Deshmukh's tenure as chief minister from 1999 to 2003, told a judicial panel set up by the state government to probe the scam that he had only followed his predecessor's "directions" while forwarding to the revenue department the letter sent by Adarsh society seeking allotment of government land.

Adarsh society had in February 2000 addressed a letter to the chief minister seeking allotment of the land in upscale Colaba in south Mumbai to construct the building.

Deshmukh had marked the letter with a note "Please process this and put up" to the then revenue minister Chavan.

"Any letter marked by the chief minister always gets the highest priority. Even in this case, the letter marked by the CM with a personal note to me as the revenue minister is an indication of the intention of the Chief Minister. Accordingly, I marked the letter to the deputy secretary of the revenue department to put up immediately," Chavan said.

Chavan, who had to step down from the post of chief minister in 2010 after it came to light that two of his family members had flats in the building, was deposing before the Judicial Commission headed by retired high court judge J A Patil for the second day.

Even on the first day of his deposition on June 30, Chavan had pinned the blame on Deshmukh, saying only the chief minister was empowered to take a decision on allotting land to a housing society in the city and suburbs.

When Commission's counsel Dipan Merchant asked Chavan if he knew any of the members of the society, Chavan's lawyer Amit Desai raised an objection, saying he would not answer the question at this stage as the panel is presently looking into the issue of its membership.

"The commission can summon him again when it is examining witnesses on the issue of membership," Desai argued.

Chavan's mother-in-law and brother-in-law are members of the society and have two flats.

On the issue of approving Letter of Intent (LOI) to the society, Chavan said, "I was guided by the recommendations of the principal secretary of the revenue department before signing the conditional LOI."

Chavan said he was not aware of all the conditions of the LOI but knew of two-- clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and strict scrutiny of all the members -- as these were mentioned in the note put up by the principal secretary.

"D K Shankaran was the principal secretary at that time. Since it was a mere LOI which was positively recommended by the principal secretary, I signed it in good faith," Chavan said.

He added that as a revenue minister he never looked into the membership issue and valuation of the land allotted to the society.

Chavan had earlier refuted the allegation that he had cleared a proposal for including 40 per cent civilians as members of the society.

During his deposition Deshmukh had said that Adarsh society had written a letter to him in June 2000 stating that its members had a meeting with revenue minister Chavan wherein it was agreed to include 40 per cent civilians as members. "I sent the letter to the revenue department. The revenue minister, however, did not get back to me," Dehsmukh had said.

Chavan is the only former Chief Minister among the three under the scanner who has been made an accused in the case registered by the CBI.

While recording their statements before the panel, all the three--Chavan, Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde--have tried to wash their hands off the scam and pointed fingers at others.

Deshmukh, Union Science and Technology Minister, while seeking to absolve himself, had appeared to be laying the blame at Chavan's door when he told the Commission that the land was allotted to the society after a go-ahead from the revenue department.

"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 that is there is no difference of opinion between the revenue minister and other officers then the secretary briefs the CM and approval is given," Deshmukh said appearing as a witness.

Deshmukh's deposition followed that of Union Minister of Power Sushil Kumar Shinde, who too claimed innocence, saying the decision on allotting government land and granting additional FSI to the housing society was taken during Deshmukh's tenure.

"The decision to allot the land in question to Adarsh society was taken prior to my taking over as Chief Minister. The Letter of Intent (LOI) was issued in favour of Adarsh on the morning of January 18, 2003 when Vilasrao Deshmukh was the Chief Minister. It was not issued under my instructions and it was never brought to my notice," Shinde had said.

While the Letter of Intent in favour of Adarsh society was issued during the tenure of Deshmukh, the Letter of Allotment was approved when Shinde was at the helm. Chavan, according to CBI FIR, had as revenue minister okayed inclusion of civilians in the society meant for Defence personnel and, as quid pro quo, his relatives got flats in the 32-storey plush building.
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