Demolish Adarsh building in three months: Environment ministry (Second Lead)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI - The environment ministry Sunday ordered that the scam-hit Adarsh housing society building in Mumbai be demolished within three months for Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violations. The society said it would challenge the order in court.

The ministry, in its 29-page order, concluded that the 31-storey structure built at Block 6, Backbay Reclamation Area in Mumbai’s upscale Colaba area, is unauthorised and should be removed in its entirety and the area be restored to its original condition.

“In case, the above directions are not complied within three months from the date of receipt of this order, the ministry will be constrained to enforce this direction, and undertake action under Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,” the order said.

The building in Mumbai’s plush Colaba locality was originally meant to be a six-storey structure to house Kargil War heroes and their kin but was later extended to 31 floors allegedly without mandatory permission.

Under the CRZ, permission has to be sought for any construction in coastal areas. The ministry, in its order, concluded that Adarsh society had not obtained the necessary prior clearance under the CRZ Notification, 1991.

According to the order, the ministry looked at three options - removal of the entire structure because it is unauthorised, removal of excess part of the structure and government takeover of the building for public use.

The last two options were rejected as this would have been tantamount to regularizing a violation of the CRZ Notification, it said.

“Therefore, in light of all the facts, circumstances, discussions, consideration, reasoning and analysis in the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society (ACHS) dossier, I have decided on option 1 (demolition),” said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh in New Delhi.

It is immaterial whether the Adarsh Society was aware of the requirement to seek clearance under Coastal Regulation Zone rules. Ignorance of law can never be an excuse for non-compliance,” he added.

The environment ministry had in November last year served a notice to the society asking it why the illegal floors in the building should not be demolished.

Adarsh society’s counsel Satish Maneshinde said the environment ministry’s decision had been made in a hurry and that they would move court against it.

“The tenor of the order is completely malafide and we challenge the demolition order,” Maneshinde told NDTV in Mumbai.

“To pass an order on a Sunday like this without even any legal precedence, I totally feel it is a malafide order and we challenge it as and when we get the copy of the order,” he said.

Asked about the legal options, Maneshinde said: “The first legal option is to approach the high court and society will decide the next course of action. I will advice them after seeing the copy of the order it is premature to tell what we are going to do.”

The Adarsh society building became the centre of a scam that claimed the job of former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan after allegations surfaced of collusion between bureaucrats and politicians to corner flats in the building constructed on a prime plot measuring nearly 6,500 sq metres in south Mumbai.

The society, in its Jan 4 hearing before the ministry, said that the CRZ notification does not apply to their housing complex as the provisions of the notification expressly apply to the industrial processes and operations and not to the residential building.

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