Mumbai: Former army chief Deepak Kapoor on Thursday told a judicial panel conducting inquiry into the Adarsh Society scam that he didn`t think that the high-rise would be a security threat due to its proximity to a military station.
"It did not occur to me that the building would pose a security threat, because there are number of buildings of similar height in the area (south Mumbai)," General Kapoor said, deposing before the two-member commission here.
Ministry of Defence, in a pending petition in the Bombay High Court, has sought demolition of the building, saying it poses a threat.
Kapoor, who retired as Chief of Army Staff in March 2010, had applied for membership of the society in 2005 and was allotted a flat. He surrendered the flat in October 2010 after the scam came to light.
"I am aware that the site of Adarsh building is in vicinity of army area in Colaba. But I did not find out whether construction of a high-rise building so close to Army installation would be a security threat," Kapoor said.
When asked by Commission member P Subrahmanyam whether it occurred to him that in the wake of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, a high-rise near a military station would enhance the security threat, Kapoor said: "There are large number of tall structures both in the vicinity of Adarsh building and Colaba military station. It was for the authority which has the power to give clearances for construction to decide whether any threat was being posed by Adarsh."
According to Kapoor, a number of aspects have to be looked into before a building can be classified as a security threat. "The height of the building, proximity to a sensitive area and ability to overlook into the sensitive area needs to be considered. It is the local military authority which would be in the best position to consider all these aspects and make recommendations," he said.
Justifying his June 2008 letter to the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh seeking approval of his membership, General Kapoor said, "I was not aware that the Collector of Mumbai had rejected my membership form. I wrote the letter to the Chief Minister in my personal capacity, as I felt he was the appropriate authority."
The former army chief further said that after the allegations of irregularities in the construction came to light in October 2010, he sought cancellation of membership.
"I do not want my reputation to be tarnished. I have served the nation for over 30 years. The Society has not yet returned the money I paid for the flat," Kapoor said.
He added that he did not personally verify whether the building had got all the necessary clearances. "I did not feel the need to verify all this, as prior to my applying for membership, large number of service officers had already applied and they were granted permission. Even the construction of the building had started. Therefore, I assumed that all clearances were obtained," he said.
Apart from its closeness to the military installation in south Mumbai, the building allegedly came up in violation of several civic and environmental norms.