Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh today appeared to be laying the blame for 'Adarsh' scam at former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan's door when he told the judicial panel probing it that the land was allotted to the society after a go-ahead from the revenue department.
During Deshmukh's first stint as CM, Ashok Chavan was the revenue minister when the land was allotted to the controversial housing society in upscale Colaba.
"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 and 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 in his deposition before the panel as a witness.
Deshmukh, Union Minister of Science and Technology, pleaded ignorance to several questions asked during his deposition and said he was not informed by the revenue department that the land where the building stands was in possession of the Local Military Authority and a garden existed on the plot.
Deshmukh, during his tenure as Maharashtra Chief Minister from October 1999 to January 2003 and from November 2004 to December 2008, had issued Letter of Intent (LOI) in favour of allotting government land to Adarsh society and issued a notification directing reduction of the width of Capt Prakash Pethe Marg outside the plush building in south Mumbai.
The Minister said he was not informed by the secretary of Urban Development (UD) department that objection was raised over the notification dated April 10, 2002, reducing the width of Capt Pethe Marg.
"I was not made aware that MSRDC had raised an objection to the notification. The UD secretary also did not bring to my notice the fact that the society claimed to have been in possession of the land in question in February 2001 itself," he said.
One of the promoters of the society, Kanhaiya Lal Gidwani, a Congress MLC had claimed in a letter to Deshmukh that the society was in possession of the land in 2001.
Deshmukh said he first came across the Adarsh issue in the year 2000 when he received a letter from the society seeking allotment of land.
"I made a remark on the letter asking for it to be immediately put up before the revenue department. I did not check later what action was taken by the revenue department," he said.
Deshmukh further said that Gidwani had on several occasions written letters to him or met him regarding the Adarsh society.
"Gidwani being an MLC had free access to the Chief Minister. He had told me that the society was for military officers and their families," he said.
Deshmukh's deposition came a day after Union Minister of Power Sushil Kumar Shinde sought to wash his hands off the scam, saying the decision on allotting government land and granting additional FSI to the housing society was taken during Deshmukh's tenure as Chief Minister.
Both Shinde and Deshmukh had handled files pertaining to the controversial society during their stint as Maharashtra Chief Minister.
"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 told the panel headed by retired High Court judge J A Patil.
While the commission has already concluded that the land belonged to the state government and not the Ministry of Defence, it is now looking into whether any rules were flouted while granting various clearances to the society.
"The additional Floor Space Index to Adarsh from the adjoining BEST land was not granted during my tenure. It was granted after my tenure," Shinde said, apparently putting the onus on Deshmukh, who had also succeeded him as CM.
Deshmukh, who was accompanied by his elder son Amit, will continue his deposition tomorrow, while Chavan is scheduled to appear before the Judicial Commission on June 30.
Deshmukh Lays 'Adarsh' Blame at Ashok Chavan's Door
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