Cracking the whip, the Environment Ministry on Friday slapped a show cause notice on the scam-hit Adarsh Housing Society for "blatant" violation of green norms, asking why the "illegal" 31-storey building in Mumbai should not be pulled down.
"The Environment Ministry has issued a show cause notice to the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society in Mumbai for the blatant violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said, adding the Society has been asked to repond within three weeks.
Noting that the society did not have any permission for building the structure from either the Environment Ministry or the relevant state government departments, Ramesh said, "We have asked them that why should the 31-storey building not be removed. The entire structure is illegal."
The minister, who has dropped enough hints recently that demolishing the illegal building was one of the option available, made it clear that law of the land will be followed in letter and spirit to send a "correct message," and under no circumstances the building in upscale Colaba would be regularised.
The Society has been given two weeks' time to submit a written reply and one more to meet the Ministry officials to present their case after which appropiate action will be taken.
Ramesh said his ministry was not going into the ownership issue of the land over which the skyscraper has been built and was only concerned whether the CRZ norms were followed or not. "We do not need the CBI to tell if it had violated the green norms," Ramesh said.
The society, built on a 6,490 sq mt plot in the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) II, was initially promoted as housing for Kargil war veterans and widows but has been in the eye of a storm for violating environmental and other norms and misusing the land granted to it.
"There are all other legal options available for the ministry except regularising the building. I am strictly against any regularisation business where the law is violated," Ramesh said.
"In this case it is amply clear that the building was constructed in clear violation of the provision of the CRZ notification 1991 as no permission was obtained by the Society either from Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority or the state government," the Minister said.
While Ramesh was silent over the role of state Urban Development Department which had allegedly issued no objection certificate to the Society, the minister "complimented" the Maharashtra coastal regulatory zone management authority for initiating action against the society by issuing a show cause notice last year.
The CRZMA had not followed the issue further. The Environment Ministry has already clarified that it never issued a No Objection Certificate (NOC) on March 11, 2003, to the society for construction of the residentialbuilding. The decision to issue show cause notice came after National Coastal Zone Management Authority recommended that urgent action should be initiated under the provision of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for blatant violation by the society.
When asked what steps were being taken to prevent repetition of Adarsh-like scam, Ramesh pinned hopes on the proposed CRZ norms 2010 which will be soon notified afteramending the CRZ 1992. "One of the main features of the CRZ 2010 will be better monitoring and (to ensure) that Adarsh-II does nothappen," Ramesh said.
The Defence Ministry has already recommended a CBI probe into the scam to investigate the circumstances under which a No Objection Certificate was issued to the Society to construct the building on a piece of land which was in the "de facto" possession of the Army. The probe agency will also investigate the commitments made for allotment of flats in the 104-apartment society for Kargil widows and martyrs' families.
Names of former Army Chiefs Deepak Kapoor and N C Vij, besides former Navy Chief Madhavendra Singh figure in the list of allottees in the housing society that was reportedly meant for families of Kargil martyrs. Also, over 40 officers from the armed forces and Defence Estates too had got flats allotted in the society.