Mumbai: Asking scam-tainted Adarsh Housing Society to surrender the 31-storey building to the Defence Ministry, the Bombay High Court on Thursday said the structure posed a threat to sensitive defence installations nearby and lessons had to learnt from Mumbai terror attacks. Invoking Mahatama Gandhi, a bench comprising justices P B Majmudar and R D Dhanuka, said, "There is nothing wrong in accepting your (society's) mistake and surrendering before the law. You may have committed the mistake then but there can be a change of heart. You are not murderers or terrorists or hardened criminals. Give the building back to Defence Ministry."
Observing that the security of the nation comes first, Justice Majmudar said, "We have to learn from terrorist attacks. Terrorists have already come till Taj Hotel. Tomorrow they may attack sensitive defence establishments. It is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly."
Hearing a batch of PILs seeking monitoring of the probe by the High Court, the bench, which had pulled up the CBI over its tardy investigations, expressed satisfaction at the progress in the case, saying it was on the "right track" following the arrest of seven accused since Tuesday.
Maharashtra government counsel Ravi Kadam also informed the court that IAS officers Pradeep Vyas and Jairaj Phatakhave been placed under suspension for their alleged involvement in the case. While Vyas was the Collector of Mumbai, Phatak, who has not yet been arrested, was City Municipal Commissioner when the scam occurred.
Expressing satisfaction at the progress in the probe, the court said, "Now things are proceeding on the right track. We are satisfied with the investigations done so far and have full faith that the probe would be completed as expeditiously as possible."
The bench had on March 12 severely castigated the CBI for its failure to arrest "high-ranking politicians" in the scam despite having evidence and directed the investigative agency to act "without fear or favour".
"Take action without fear or favour. We agree that some of the accused persons are high-ranking politicians but by initiating action CBI should send out a message that any wrongdoer, irrespective of who he is, will be punished," the bench had said.
Though K L Gidwani, a former Congress MLC, is the only politician to have been arrested in the scam in which former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is also an accused, the agency has caught in its net six top retired army officers and bureaucrats including state's finance secretary Pradeep Vyas.
Those arrested include Major Generals (Retd) A R Kumar and T K Kaul, retired defence estates officer R C Thakur, Brigadier(Retd) M M Wanchoo, P V Deshmukh, a former Deputy Secretary in the Urban Department, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani and Vyas, who was Mumbai Collector when the fraud took place.
Citing the example of the Mahatma, who did not hanker for money and physical possessions, the court said politicians and bureaucrats of today should realise their mistake and emulate the father of the nation.
"In the future, people would remember these politicians and say they had the courage to accept their mistake," the court said.
The bench questioned the clearance given to the society by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and planning authority MMRDA.
"Why did you (BMC and MMRDA) not insist on NOC from the Defence Ministry? The land is very close to defence installations. Before granting clearance the authorities should have considered the security aspect," the bench said.
The court directed BMC and MMRDA to explain during the next hearing on April 30 whether they had considered the security aspect before granting clearance to Adarsh society.
"Explain whether NOC from defence ministry was obtained. The defence ministry shall also point out if NOC was given then by which department and whether that department had the authority to grant permission," it said.
The Adarsh building in upscale Colaba in south Mumbai is being seen as a potential threat to nearby defence installations as it offers unhindered view of the premises.
The court was informed by additional solicitor general Darius Khambatta that a joint meeting of high-ranking officials from CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax looking into the scam was held on March 15 and another was scheduled for March 30 where information would be exchanged.
The High Court is hearing a batch of public interest litigations filed by social activists Simpreet Singh and Pravin Wategaonkar seeking monitoring of the probe by the High Court and invoking provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the case.
According to the CBI, Vyas (49), during his tenure as Collector from August 2002 to May 2005, allegedly connived with other accused and accepted false documents as proof of income and granted membership to those who were not eligible.
His wife Seema Vyas, also an IAS officer, has a flat in the posh Adarsh building.
Phatak is alleged to have allowed the height of the building in upmarket Colaba to be raised beyond 100 metres without the approval of the High-Rise Committee of the municipal body. His son received a flat in the Adarsh Society building, allegedly as quid pro quo.
Mumbai: Asking scam-tainted Adarsh Housing Society to surrender the 31-storey building to the Defence Ministry, the Bombay High Court on Thursday said the structure posed a threat to sensitive defence installations nearby and lessons had to learnt from Mumbai terror attacks.
Invoking Mahatama Gandhi, a bench comprising justices P B Majmudar and R D Dhanuka, said, "There is nothing wrong in accepting your (society's) mistake and surrendering before the law. You may have committed the mistake then but there can be a change of heart. You are not murderers or terrorists or hardened criminals. Give the building back to Defence Ministry."