Saturday, December 3, 2011

Adarsh Scam: Generals lie to Parliament for allotment of houses

Kiran Tare August 5, 2011 | UPDATED 22:00 IST
Generals lied on Adarsh
Army generals in Adarsh Housing Society scam

Parliament was told a lie by the office of LT Gen G.S. Sihota, who headed the Southern command, the highest authority of the area

An internal inquiry of the Indian Army has revealed that two of its generals lied on the possession of land where the controversial Adarsh Society stands in Mumbai. The land was owned by the Maharashtra government but is in the possession of the army which maintained a 'Khukri eco-park'. However, in a crucial misrepresentation in 2003, the head of Southern Command in Pune and the chief of the Mumbai-headquartered Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa (MG&G) area told Parliament that the army did not possess the land. Though the report has not named any officer, army records show Lt Gen G.S. Sihota was heading the Southern Command and Major Gen T.K. Kaul was the chief of MG&G area. Both Sihota and Kaul were allotted flats in Adarsh. This lie, in response to a question in the Lok Sabha on December 18, 2003, allowed a speedy handover of the plot to the state government, which allowed the society to be built.

The confidential inquiry report, a copy of which is with India Today, blames the Southern Command and MG&G headquarters for the mess. The report states that there appeared to be no reason for vacating the land in favour of the society. MG&G headquarters wrote to the Mumbai city collector on March 30, 2000, stating that the land was outside the defence boundary and that "action at your end may be taken as deemed fit for the welfare of service persons, ex-servicemen and their widows."

Three commanders of Southern Command - General N.C. Vij, General Deepak Kapoor and Sihota, as well as then sub-area commander Kaul - were allotted flats in Adarsh Society. Vij and Kapoor surrendered their flats after the controversy broke out in September 2009. The report states that they were the final authority for all clearances given to Adarsh. The inquiry was ordered by army chief General V.K. Singh early this year. He had sought answers to the status of the land allotted to Adarsh, reasons for the allegations and whether the land was under the occupation of the army before it was handed over.

Corroborating the army report, Brigadier Deepak Saxena of the MG&G area admitted before the Adarsh Inquiry Commission on July 27 that the reply given to Parliament in 2003 was incorrect. "The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was aware of the fact that a building was going to come up on the land in question and yet it did not file any suit for injunction restraining Adarsh Society from making any construction," he said. He also admitted the army knew that the Adarsh land had been included by the state government in the draft development plan of the area. Under this plan, the land was earmarked for widening of Captain Prakash Pethe Marg.

When India Today contacted Kaul on his mobile, he first confirmed he was the retired Major General T.K. Kaul but when asked about the issue, he said, "Woh to abhi ghar par nahi hain. (He is not at home). I will give him your message." Sihota, who has also retired, refused to comment. "Whatever reply was given (to Parliament) is on record with the Southern Command and only the Command will reply on this matter," he said. A senior army officer says it is difficult to move against the generals for any offence because the Army Act ceases to apply after retirement.

The army's inquiry ends the argument over ownership of the 40,000 sq ft plot. However, it does not help the Rs.900-crore Adarsh Society acquire legal status. The society is accused of flouting the Coastal Regulatory Zone Act.

The report also blames the Defence Estates department, the custodian of all defence land, for not getting the Adarsh plot for the army in exchange for defence land ceded in 1956 for constructing the Western Express Highway. The report says the land was transferred by the Southern Command despite adverse remarks by two Defence Estates officials. In July 2003, the then Defence Estates officer (DEO), Saurav Ray, wrote to the Command saying the army could have constructed residential accommodation on the land given to Adarsh. The society countered that Ray was harming the interests of ex-servicemen and war widows as he was not allotted a flat.

The then director general of Defence Estates (DGDE), Veena Maitra, raised doubts about the society's chief promoter R.C. Thakur, a retired Defence Estates employee . In a letter to the Command on March 8, 2004, Maitra stated that the possibility of tampering with land records could not be ruled out as Thakur promoted the society in association with a local politician, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, then Shiv Sena MLC. The Command rubbished Maitra's doubts. On May 25, 2004, it said in a letter that the land was never handed over by the state government to the army. It stated: "It is the role of the dgde to get land from state government in lieu of land handed over at Santa Cruz. They have done nothing about it." This was a turnaround from a July 4, 2003, MG&G HQ letter which said: "Land in question has been in the physical possession of the army and its ownership has not been questioned." However, the same hq filed a reply to Parliament stating the land was never possessed by the army. What made the army change its mind is now the subject of investigations.

MoD counsel Dhiren Shah said he was unaware of the army's inquiry. "An officer who was unaware of the facts could have prepared the report," he said. DEO Geeta Kashyap told the Adarsh Inquiry Commission on May 25 that there is no record to show the MoD owns the land. However, the next day she said the land was in dispute.

Lawyer and former IPS officer Y.P. Singh, who had filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court demanding that Adarsh be razed, says demolition is inevitable. "There is no provision of later-on clearance in the Environment (Protection) Act. So the chances of the society's survival are slim," he says.
Read more at: click here for original T of I report

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