The blame-game over Adarsh scam continued on Saturday with former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan pointing a finger at his predecessor Vilasrao Deshmukh, saying as revenue minister during the latter’s tenure it was beyond his jurisdiction to allot land to the society.
“All land allotment matters pertaining to Mumbai city, Mumbai suburb and Pune city comes under the jurisdiction of the Chief Minister irrespective of the value of the land. All matters pertaining to land allotment in rest of Maharashtra is under the jurisdiction of the revenue minister,” Chavan told the two-member inquiry commission probing the scam.
Chavan was state revenue minister from October 1999 to January 2003 when Deshmukh was Chief Minister.
Deshmukh, during his stint as Chief Minister had issued Letter of Intent (LOI) in favour of allotting land to the Adarsh society.
“In the revenue department, the file is processed by various officers like the under secretary, deputy secretary and principal secretary after which it is sent to the revenue minister along with a note from the principal secretary.
“Usually the revenue minister goes by the recommendation made by the principal secretary and forwards the file to the CM who takes final decision,” Chavan said.
Noting that since he did not have to take the decision on allotting the land to the controversial society, Chavan said.
his department did not feel the need to bring to his notice that the land was in possession of the Local Military Authority.
In his deposition on Tuesday, Deshmukh had said he was not informed by the revenue department that the land where the building stands in upmarket Colaba was in possession of the Local Military Authority and a garden existed on the plot.
Chavan, who had to step down as Chief Minister after the scam came to light, also refuted the allegation that he had cleared a proposal for including 40 per cent civilians as members of the society.
During his deposition Deshmukh has 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.
“On June 2, 2000 Gidwani (former Congress MLC and promoter of Adarsh KL Gidwani) and some other members of the society came to meet me for follow up of the proposal they had sent to the CM in February 2000. There was no discussion about accommodating civilian members in the society. I do not know who made the recommendation to include civilians in the society,” Chavan said.
Asked by Commission member P Subrahmanyam as to why he endorsed Gidwani’s letter to the joint secretary of the revenue department, Chavan said, “Every day the revenue minister receives several letters. This was one such letter. I did not go through the contents of this letter and only forwarded it to the joint secretary for follow up.”
Chavan, who was accompanied by his daughter and some MLAs, said he never had any meeting with the society members after the June 2, 2000 and that the file came back to him only in 2002 with a proposal of conditional Letter of Intent (LOI) in favour of the society signed by the principal secretary of the revenue department.
“The LOI was conditional and specified that clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest was required before any construction on the proposed land,” Chavan said.
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 had said appearing as a witness.
Deshmukh’s deposition followed that of Union Minister of Power Sushil Kumar Shinde, also a former Chief Minister, who too had 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.
“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 JA Patil.
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 in connection with the Adarsh scam.
CBI has alleged in its FIR that Chavan 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.
Chavan’s deposition remained inconclusive and the Commission would record his statement again on Monday.