"The whole Adarsh matter pertained to land allotment and was hence sent to the revenue department as that was the concerned department. Ashok Chavan was the revenue minister then," Deshmukh told the two-member inquiry commission set up by the state government to go into the scam.
Chavan, who had to step down, as the chief minister soon after the alleged scam surfaced, was the revenue minister during Deshmukh's first stint as Maharashtra CM between 1999 and 2003.
Deposing before the panel for the second day, the 67-year-old Union minister of science and technology also said the revenue minister had not brought to his notice at the time of issuing Letter of Intent to the Adarsh society for allotment of land that the plot did not have a property card or a survey number.
Deshmukh also said the decision to include civilians as members of the society, which was said to be exclusively meant for members of the defence services and war widows, was taken by Chavan.
"Adarsh society had written a letter to me in June 2000 stating that it had met with the revenue minister Ashok Chavan wherein it was agreed to include 40 per cent civilians as members in the society. The letter also mentions that the physical possession of the land in question was with the army for the last 30 years. I sent the letter to the revenue department. The Revenue Minister, however, did not get back to me on the two issues," Dehsmukh said.
In his deposition on Wednesday, Deshmukh had said he was not informed by the revenue department that the land where the building stands was in possession of the Local Military Authority and a garden existed on the plot.
Deshmukh on Wednesday faced several questions from panel member P Subrahmanyam on reasons for the decision to reduce the width of Capt Prakash Pethe Marg, deletion of reservation of the adjacent BEST plot and granting additional Floor Space Index to Adarsh society.
When asked by the Commission whether it was proper to reduce the width of a public road to create land for a private housing society, Deshmukh said, "It depends on how one looks at it and their perspective."
The Union minister told the Commission that the reduction in the width was done keeping public interest in mind. "Once the road width was reduced, the additional land was merged to parade ground, garden and for residential use."
He said the reservation of Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport land was converted to residential and handed over to Adarsh so that the government could generate some revenue.
Asked about environmental clearance, Deshmukh said the LOI approved by him specifically said that sanction from the Ministry of Environment and Forest was to be obtained before commencement of construction.
Like Deshmukh, Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who is also under the scanner in the scam, had in his deposition on Monday, sought to wash his hands off the blame, saying the decision on allotting government land and granting additional FSI to the society was taken during Deshmukh's tenure as the chief minister.
Both Shinde and Deshmukh had handled files pertaining to the controversial society during their stint as CM. "The decision to allot the land in question to Adarsh society was taken prior to my taking over as the chief minister. The Letter of Intent was issued in favour of Adarsh on the morning of January 18, 2003 when Vilasrao Deshmukh was the
chief minister. It was not issued under my instructions and it was never brought to my notice," Shinde had told the panel headed by retired High Court judge J A Patil.
After Shinde and Deshmukh, Chavan, who is the only former chief minister to have been made an accused in the case, will depose before the Commission on June 30.
The CBI has registered a case against 14 people including Chavan and several retired army officers and bureaucrats.
The CBI has said it will file a chargesheet in the case soon, while the Enforcement Directorate is also conducting a preliminary enquiry against the accused to see if there was money laundering by the society members.
The CBI has alleged in its FIR that Chavan as revenue minister okayed inclusion of civilians in the society meant for defence personnel and, as quid pro quo, his relatives got flats in the 32-storey plush building.