Deshmukh lays 'Adarsh' blame at Ashok Chavan's door

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.

"Once a file is signed by the Chief Minister all administrative orders are later issued by the secretaries, principal secretaries and deputy secretaries. Even the terms and conditions of the LOI and LOA are usually decided at the departmental level. Only if there is anything specific it is brought to the notice of the CM," Shinde said.

Before the file regarding allotment of land comes to the CM, it has to first have concurrence from the revenue minister, finance minister and urban development minister, he said, adding "without their concurrence no files are approved".

Shinde further said former Congress MLC Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, one of the promoters of Adarsh society, used to meet him regularly regarding issuance of LOA.

The Minister, however, refused to answer when asked if it was proper on the part of the then collector Pradeep Vyas to have suppressed the fact that his wife Seema Vyas was also a member of the society.

The panel has completed Shinde's deposition. Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh will depose as a witness before it tomorrow and another former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, an accused in the case, on June 30.

The scam pertains to alleged irregularities in granting various clearances in violation of environmental and other norms relating to construction and allotment of flats in the 32-storey building said to have been originally meant for families of Kargil heroes and war widows in upmarket Colaba in south Mumbai.

The MoD had ordered a CBI probe in the Adarsh scam on the recommendation of the army chief following a preliminary inquiry. Besides CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax department are also probing the alleged irregularities.

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