1. Policy on allotment of isolated pieces of government land: In Maharashtra, under the Government policy of 1957, amended in 1983 and further amended vide Government Resolution of Revenue and Forests Department No. LCS1095/C.R. 37/95/L-1 dated 9.7.99, the State Government is competent to allot isolated plots of State Government land to Co-operative Housing Societies of eligible members without auction. Numerous societies with High Court judges, MLAs, senior bureaucrats, police officers and journalists as members have been similarly allotted pieces of land in different areas of Mumbai as well as in other cities in the past. Some of these societies are Samata, Nyaya Sagar, Siddhant and Prachi for the High Court Judges, Worli Sagar, Sukhada, Shubhda and Rajyog for the M.L.A.s, Lalit, Buena Vista, Shalaka, Priya and Praneet for I.A.S. officers and Jasmine, Vasundhara and Sagar Tarang for I.P.S. officers. Many other societies have a mixed composition. In fact, the Buena Vista CHS which had two Cabinet Secretaries to the Government of India as members and the Samata CHS, which had two former Chief Justices of India as members are both located in the Nariman Point area of the Colaba division. As per this existing policy, an isolated piece of land in Block VI of Backbay Reclamation Scheme was allotted to Adarsh CHS was under this Government Resolution. This land allotted to Adarsh was reclaimed from the sea by the state government, at first reserved by the state government for widening of road and later dereserved by the state government since the widening of road was no longer necessary. There was no reservation on the piece of land either for armed forces or for Kargil heroes/ widows. In fact, the term of reference as to whether the plot of land was reserved for Kargil heroes or not was not even contested by the Ministry of Defence before the Judicial Commission of Enquiry. All the stories about defence land being grabbed by the society and about the land being reserved for Kargil heroes were mischievously planted by jealous Generals of the Army spearheaded by Gen. V.K. Singh to create a pristine ‘holier-than thou’ image for themselves. Gen. V.K. Singh also wanted to wreak vendetta to settle his personal scores against Gen. Deepak Kapoor, his predecessor, who had refused to entertain his application for a change in his date of birth. Gen. Deepak Kapoor happened to be a member of the Adarsh CHS. The media, which is always ever keen to grab sensational stories and the gullible defence minister Shri A.K. Antony, ever keen to prove his ‘clean image’ fell an easy prey to Gen. V.K. Singh’s false and mischievous propaganda about the Adarsh CHS. Policemen and bureaucrats, ever keen to please their political masters, vied with each other to please defence minister Antony by supporting his claim of ‘unearthing a huge scam’. Shri R.K. Mathur, the then Additional Secretary, Ministry of Defence, without verifying the defence estate records, registered a false P.E. on the 9 Nov 2010 to the CBI based on:
Neither of the two M.P.s belong to Mumbai or even to Maharashtra. The said officer, Shri R.K. Mathur, has now been rewarded with the post of Defence Secretary. Incidentally, Shri Rishi Raj Singh IPS (Kerala:85), who was the Joint Director of CBI in Mumbai and Shri Vinod Rai IAS (Kerala:72), then Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (C &AG) were both officers of Kerala cadre, who were on deputation to their respective posts. They went out of their way to register FIR / charge-sheet and to draft a CAG report without even ascertaining the ownership of land allotted to Adarsh CHS. This incident shows how high-ranking bureaucrats and policemen vie with each other to impress a senior politician from their state, whom they perhaps consider a potential Prime Minister of the country. They had absolutely no compunction in blaming honest applicants to the Adarsh CHS, whose only fault was that they came to know about the society earlier than others and could apply earlier to the society. The entire episode also shows the poor quality of investigation by the ‘premier investigating agency of the country’ which is now clamouring for ‘independence from the executive!! The CBI could not investigate into the ownership of land, they could not finalize their enquiry into benami transactions for more than two years and they registered a charge-sheet without even thinking whether applying for a government land as per a Government Resolution can constitute a criminal conspiracy.
2. Ownership of land : The entire Back bay Reclamation Scheme was taken up by the then Government of Bombay in the tenure of Governor Lloyd during the 1920’s. No portion of this scheme was reclaimed from the sea either by the Ministry of Defence or any other Ministry of the Government of India. The entire reclamation was at first carried out by an agency called the Bombay Development Directorate (BDD) and afterwards by the Public Works Department of the Government of Maharashtra. Three reports dealing with the Backbay Reclamation Scheme were produced before the Adarsh Commission of Enquiry.
It is worth mentioning that both S.G. Barve and M.D.Kale were Secretaries to Government of Maharashtra, Public Works Department. The Committees under the Chairmenship of the then Secretaries of the P.W.D. were appointed by the state government to review the scheme since the Reclamation was carried out by the PWD of Govt. of Maharashtra. Backbay Reclamation blocks I (Marine Lines flyover to Churchgate station) and II (Eros Theatre to Mantralaya) at the northern end and blocks VII (New Navy Nagar) and VIII (Old Navy Nagar) at the southern end were reclaimed during the 1920’s to 1950’s as per the recommendations of the Justice Grimwood Mears Committee Report. The Government of India in the Ministry of Defence bought the Block VIII in 1930 for Rs. 2.06 crores and Block VII in 1956 for Rs. 3.5 crores from the Government of Bombay. Subsequently, reclamation of Block III (Nariman Point), Block V (Cuffe Parade) and partly of Block VI was carried out by the state government in P.W.D. during the 1960’s and the 1970’s. The Backbay BEST bus Depot behind Adarsh Society was allotted land during 1973 and this Bus Depot became operational during 1976. The Development Plan of 1967 shows the land later allotted to Adarsh to be under water and the Development Plan of 1991 shows Adarsh Plot in the widening of Colaba Causeway (Prakash Pethe Marg). BBR Block VIII and BBR Block VII were sold to Defence Authorities during the 1930’s and 1950’s respectively while no part of BBR Block VI was ever sold to Ministry of Defence. The Ministry of Defence did apply for transfer of BBR Block VI to the state government on 31Dec 1958 but their request was rejected by the Government of Maharashtra vide letter No. 1210/10/A/Q3 dated 11 Feb 1964.Thereafter, there is a letter by the HQ Bombay Sub-Area, Bombay on 20 Jun 1967 that after examination by the Army Headquarters they have decided that they will manage with whatever land is with them and that the proposal to acquire further 120 acres from Block VI need not be progressed. The existing slums on southern side of Adarsh Society, which divide the Adarsh plot from the area in possession of MoD clearly prove that there is no MoD occupation in any part of BBR Block VI. In fact, MoD had repeatedly admitted that they do not own any land in BBR Block VI. In fact, the HQ Maharashtra and Gujarat and Goa Area have replied to an RTI query on 2 March 2010 that the Adarsh land is a state government land, no area around the building is notified under the Works of Defence Act, 1903 and the road up to the Backbay Bus Stop to which the building is adjacent is under civil administration and regular traffic is managed or controlled by civil administration. When the Adarsh CHS applied to the Chief Information Commissioner about the basis of the claim of MoD towards ownership of the land and requested them to produce title documents as per ACR Rules 1944 of the Military Lands Manual such as when the land was acquired, the authority of acquisition, when possession was taken over, what compensation has been paid towards acquisition/ transfer by the MoD and about proceedings under Rule 10 of ACR Rules, 1944, the MoD has taken shelter behind Rule 8 (1) (h) of the RTI Act, 2005 that this disclosure of documents will cause impediments to investigation. It is shocking that they are taking this plea more than almost three years after the P.E. This information can never cause impediment into investigation but can only strengthen their claim.
Incidentally, all the tall claims of MoD about ownership were looked into by a Judicial Commission of Enquiry appointed by the Government of Maharashtra, who held that the land allotted to Adarsh CHS belongs to the state. It is a standard practice that the plots in reclaimed areas are given survey number and they are entered into property register only after allotment to the allottees.
3. Possession of land: The Ministry of Defence was never in legal possession of the land allotted to Adarsh. While allotting land to BEST depot, a 200 feet strip was left for the 200’ wide road separating the BEST depot from the New Navy Nagar land in BBR Block VII. During the early 1970’s, hutments now known as Ganesh Murthy Nagar, started coming on this 200’ wide road dividing the MES/ GE offices from the Backbay BEST bus depot. Again there is a letter dt. 6.8.71 from HQ Southern Command to the state P.W.D. that the hutments are on the state government land and they should take action to remove these hutments. Thereafter, a group of senior Maharashtrian defence officers, Brigadier D. J. Mudholkar sub-area commander and station commander of Mumbai, Air Vice Marshal M.H. Takle and Rear Admiral S. H. Lakhker, who were station commanders respectively of the Air Force and the Navy had jointly applied for allotment of land later allotted to Adarsh CHS, for their private housing society. However, this request was rejected by the Government of Maharashtra on 17 June 1987 since the proposed reduction of the width of the road was not considered desirable at that time. This application shows that in 1987, the military officers were fully aware that the land does not belong to the Ministry of Defence but to the Government of Maharashtra. In the meanwhile, this group of officers fenced the land to stop further proliferation of slums and planted trees on the plot from private funds in anticipation of allotment. This was an encroachment by some military officers on state government land with ulterior motives without the land being legally allotted to them. The Garrison Engineer has given evidence before the Adarsh commission that no amount was spent from the defence funds towards this compound wall.
4. Security Concerns: Adarsh CHS had given a newspaper advertisement on 19.10.2005 before starting of construction. During the period of more than five years, when the building was under construction, there was no objection from the Ministry of Defence or any other security organization that the building is a potential security hazard. Only after the building was about to get the occupancy certificate that the local Flag
Officer Commanding in chief Vice Admiral Sanjeev Bhasin raised a bogey of security concerns and wanted to verify the credentials and antecedents of the members of Adarsh CHS. It is worth noting that there are already two civilian multi-stories buildings, Dolphin and Oyster CHS, which are located well inside the Colaba Military Area. It is hard to believe that they do not cause security threat but Adarsh CHS, which is well outside the defence area limits causes a security threat to the military area. In fact, Vice Admiral Bhasin had tried to form his own private Cooperative Housing Society near Dolphin and Oyster. The resolution passed by Vice Admiral Bhasin and party seeking help from Adarsh CHS for this purpose is enclosed. He started questioning Adarsh when he could not get land for his own society. He wanted the list of members to ascertain whether there were any vacancies in the membership. The Colaba military area is mainly office buildings and residential quarters. For that matter the Taj Intercontinental Tower, the Stock Exchange building and the RBI building directly overlook the Naval Dockyard. Harsiddhi Heights, another CHS, a building near Worli seaface directly overlooking that Naval Ammunition Depot has been allowed to be occupied and the High Court has stayed the disconnection of its power supply. Indian Navy had directly objected to the construction of this building immediately after the C.C. but the developer constructed the building without any building permission and it is now even occupied with electric connection. The entire security bogey about Adarsh is a work of the jealous defence officers who have got a massive media support since the media loves to create scandals when none exist. Incidentally no terrorist attack in the country has ever taken place from a multi-storied building, guarded by watchmen. In Adarsh CHS, a large number of members are retired defence officers and with regular watchmen, its use as a possible attack point is very unlikely. In fact there are several towers such as DSK’s Durgamata towers, the World Trade Centre and many other buildings in the vicinity such as Daulat, Shirin, Windmere, Buena Vista and Southlands which oversee the Colaba defence area in the same way that the Adarsh CHS does. How can Adarsh CHS alone be isolated from these other buildings? In fact Darius Khambata, the then Addl. Solicitor-general had given his opinion on 9 Sep 2010 to Navy, Army and subsequently to Minister for Environment in Government of India that the Army cannot cower behind a claim of security concerns unless they notify the area under the Works of Defence Act, 1903. Neither Adarsh plot nor any of the other areas in BBR Block VI have been declared as areas causing security threat till now. Darius Khambata had further advised the MoD that since they had not notified the area under the Works of Defence Act, 1903, the only other option available to them is to acquire the land under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. However, instead of taking recourse to any legal means, the MoD is only interested in harassing the Adarsh society, who have been lawfully allotted land by the Government of Maharashtra.
5. Reservation of Plot of Land: There was no reservation on the said plot, in either the 1967 Development Plan or the 1991 Development Plan of any kind either for Defence Personnel or Defence War Widows on the land. The last Development Plan of Mumbai was prepared in 1991. Kargil War took place in 1999 by which time the DP was already in existence for 8 years and there could not have been any reservation either for Kargil War Heroes or Kargil War Widows. The plot was allotted to Adarsh CHS as per the State G.R. mentioned above. Under this GR, apart from 20% reservation for backward classes, there is no other reservation in the membership of the Society. The society admitted civilian members as per the provisions of this GR and the society has also offered membership to members from backward classes towards 20 percent of the vacancies. Adarsh CHS has not been allotted this plot free of cost but it has paid more than Rs. 10 crores to the Government of Maharashtra for allotment of this land.