The Adarsh Housing Society, built on defence land in posh Colaba area of Mumbai, is a 31-storey building which was originally meant to provide homes for war heroes and war widows of the 1999 Kargil War.
Located in a sensitive coastal area and in proximity to several defence establishments, the flats, however, ended up being allocated to bureaucrats, and relatives of politicians.
The issue was first raised in a newspaper report in 2003, but it was only in 2010 when reports of allocation of flats to bureaucrats, politicians and army personnel who had nothing to do with the Kargil War surfaced, prompting the Army and CBI to launch separate probes.
In 2011, a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said, “The episode of Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society reveals how a group of select officials, placed in key posts, could subvert rules and regulations in order to grab prime government land – a public property – for personal benefit.”
The building itself was targetted for several violations. It turned out that the Navy had objected to the Maharashtra government for giving the building an Occupation Certificate. The Navy had cited “serious security concerns” over the building that is around 100-metres tall, and located next to a planned helipad and military installations.
There were violations of environment laws too. It was also found that the society didn’t obtain a NOC from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and had permission to build only six floors.
The beneficiaries included former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s relatives, including his mother-in-law who owned three flats. Chavan resigned from his post in November 2010.
In January 2011, the Maharashtra government set up a two-member judicial commission to inquire into the matter. The commission was headed by retired High Court judge Justice J.A. Patil, with N.N. Kumbhar acting as member secretary. After the deposition of 182 witnesses over two years, the commission submitted its final report in April 2013 to the Maharashtra government.
The report highlighted 25 illegal allotments, including 22 purchases made by proxy. The report also indicted four former Chief Ministers of Maharashtra – Ashok Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Shivajirao Nilangekar Patil, two former Urban Development Ministers – Rajesh Tope and Sunil Tatkare — and 12 top bureaucrats for various illegal acts.