Mumbai: The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests came to know about the irregularities in the Adarsh housing scam only after it was highlighted in the
media, the Bombay High Court was informed on Monday during which the counsel for the ministry took a strong stand against bureaucrats who brazenly and knowingly violated the norms.
"These are not innocent people. They are bureaucrats and government officials who were well aware of regulations to be followed and environment clearances required before constructions," additional solicitor general Darius Khambatta,
appearing for the ministry argued.
A division bench of Justices Ranjana Desai and RG Ketkar, who was hearing a petition filed by Adarsh society challenging the MoEF`s demolition order, was told by Khambatta that the Union Ministry was not aware about the brazen violations and came to know about them only through media reports.
"According to law, any construction on coastal area needs recommendation of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA). In January 2003, the state government forwarded the proposal of Adarsh society to the Centre. In March 2003, the MoEF replied stating since the plot falls within coastal zone permission needs to be taken from the appropriate authority," Khambatta said.
The MoEF`s letter was "misconstrued" as PV Deshmukh, the then under secretary of Urban Development Department, had issued a letter to the society stating that the Centre has given clearance to the proposal, he said.
"Deshmukh, who has been named as an accused by CBI in its probe in the scam, was aware about the provisions of MCZMA as the Urban Development department is part of MCZMA," Khambatta said.
Justifying the bold decision of demolition taken by the ministry, Khambatta said, "The entire building has no clearance and is illegal. When a poor man builds an illegal shack it is removed immediately then why anyone else should be
spared just because they are bureaucrats."
Striking down the possibility of regularisation of the high-rise, the additional solicitor general said "Regularisation is considered only when there is a bonafide
mistake. For example if a person did not know that certain permission was required. But in this case, the bureaucrats who were involved were aware of the regulations."
The court has adjourned the matter till June 27.