Adarsh: No demolition until both sides heard, says Bombay HC

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday decided to extend the stay imposed by it on the union environment ministry’s order to demolish the controversial Adarsh Society building.

Last Updated: Apr 14, 2011, 00:03 AM IST

Mumbai: In a breather for the Adarsh Housing
Society here, Bombay High Court on Wednesday said that before passing
any "drastic" order -- such as giving a nod for demolition --
it would first hear the society and the environment ministry.
"Anything which is illegal needs to be demolished. We
agree with that, but at this stage we would like to first hear
the arguments to satisfy our judicial conscience. Demolition
is a drastic step," said the division bench of Justices
Ranjana Desai and R G Ketkar.

The court was hearing the petition filed by the Society,
challenging the demolition order passed by the Ministry of
Environment and Forests in January.

The ministry ordered the demolition of the 31-storey
building after concluding that it was unauthorised and had
violated several norms. The society had got three months`s
time to file appeal.

The High Court today posted the matter for hearing on
April 27. But before that, the judges observed, "We are
assured that the MOEF would maintain status quo until the
court decides the case. Nothing drastic will happen. In case
it does, the society can rush to the court immediately."

In any case, the building is empty. There is no water
and electricity supply. So the society is not going to get any
benefit if it is not demolished. We are not saying MOEF does
not have a good case. Maybe after hearing the arguments we
would direct demolition but before passing any direction
the court needs to hear the case."

Additional Solicitor General Darius Khambata, appearing
for MOEF, said that Adarsh did not take any permission or
clearance before the construction, which started in 2003.
"They never came for permission. The building is illegal and
needs to be demolished."
"But is demolition the only solution? What is the
alternative? Can`t the society approach the ministry for
clearance now as in the case of Lavasa Corporation? Or maybe
the building could be put to some other use," Justice Desai
said during the arguments.

To this, Khambata said if the society wanted clearance
now, it should say so and apply to the MOEF.

Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, Adarsh`s lawyer, argued
that the construction was completed several years ago. "All
permissions were taken then. How can they (ministry) say now
that everything is illegal?"

In a related development, the division bench today
adjourned another petition filed by the society, which seeks a
direction to the CBI to de-freeze its bank accounts till
April 26.

CBI, which is conducting the probe into Adarsh scam, has
attached the society`s bank accounts.

On January 29, the agency registered a case against 14
persons, including former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok
Chavan, retired army officials, bureaucrats and state
government officials for criminal conspiracy, fraud and misuse
of official powers while granting various permissions to the
society.

PTI