The Supreme Court stayed the demolition of the Adarsh Housing Society building in Mumbai and asked the defence authorities to take possession of the property while it decides whether the construction was carried out in violation of green laws and in connivance with politicians and bureaucrats.
The Bombay High Court had on April 29 directed that the 31-storey building be demolished for violating environmental norms. The society and residents challenged the ruling in the top court, which asked the government on Friday not to demolish the structure. Bureaucrats, politicians and their relatives are alleged to have been allotted flats in the building in exchange for facilitating approvals for the project. The building came up on land meant for housing heroes and widows of those who lost their lives in the 1999 Kargil war. The Central Bureau of Investigation is probing the involvement of officials and politicians in the matter, which led Ashok Chavan to resign as Maharashtra chief minister in 2010.
Charge sheets have been filed against some individuals, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told a bench comprising justices Jasti Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre at the hearing on Friday . He urged the court to hand over the land and the building to the defence authorities, who had first flagged security concerns over construction of the building near military installations. The Ministry of Environment and Forests later claimed that the building was constructed without the necessary green clearances.Occupancy certificates were cancelled and power and water supply to the building were cut off, prompting the residents to move out.
The SC bench issued notices to the Union government to explain why the high court judgment ordering the demolition of the building should stand. In the interim, the court directed the defence authorities to take over the land and the building. Chavan was also charge-sheeted, apart from other senior state bureaucrats. Allotments to several people, including minister Suresh Prabhu and IFS officer Devyani Khobragade, were also cancelled following a recommendation of a high level panel set up to look into the scam. The residents' case was argued in court by senior advocate Shekhar Naphade.Senior advocate Harish Salve is expected to defend the residents at the next hearing on August 5.
In his initial arguments, Naphade said the environment ministry's permission and other necessary sanctions were taken, but were later withdrawn. He also contested the ownership of the land, insisting that both the state and the Centre had claimed it and the court would have to deal with this matter, too.